Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween

It's Halloween!  Because I'm in charge of candy distribution this year, I made sure to buy nothing but king-sized candies. 

Originally, my costume was going to be Tim Allen from The Santa Clause.



But I don't have gray sweats, so that costume idea had to be thrown out.  After going through the clothes that belonged to the previous owners of my house, I found a bathrobe.  I combined it with my red gloves from Canada to get a boxer costume.


Far too late, I realized I would have made a very nice Alexandra Roivas from Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. Or maybe a tough guy from a motorcycle gang.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Slender: The Eight Pages

In case you didn't know, I played the scary Slenderman game.



I don't understand it. Apparently, you're supposed to find eight pages, but there are no pages anywhere. The game succeeded in making me look at a bunch of near-identical tree trunks, to the point where I got excited about seeing one tree with a slightly different base than the others. (That's at 1:57, and in my defense, there's a distinct paper-like white splotch there).

The weird thing is that one person said I passed by four pages. WHAT? Are the pages the exact same color as the trees, or something? Not to be cruel, but if the goal of the game is to find four pages, they should at least make the pages somewhat distinct from the surroundings! Otherwise, it's basically a 3D hidden objects challenge.

Sadly, it seems that Slenderman himself was too busy to make an appearance.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Operation Titanic - Bonus Material

I wasn't able to fit this into my review, but I don't like Chapter Fourteen, where the Hardy Boys investigate.  On page 145, the Hardys uncover a plot twist about the men who tried to kill them.  Pay close attention to how long this plot twist lasts:
"What did you find down the incline?"
"An added twist to the mystery," Frank replied. He pushed his fist forward, and Joe could see the brass glinting through the plastic sandwich bag dangling between his fingers. "Tell me what you see."
Joe glanced as the short rifle cartridges in the bag, noticing immediately the curiously crinkled openings, where the explosions had erupted. "Those guys last night were shooting blanks!"

"Definitely all of those shots were blanks," Frank replied, examining the plastic bag of spent cartridges again.
One sentence.  The plot twist lasts for one sentence!  The paragraph break between those two sentences honestly does very little for holding up the dramatic suspense.

The rest of the chapter is the Hardy Boys and Eric discussing the mystery.  Their discussion is four times longer than the investigation, and they quickly deduce that the villains weren't using blanks, because there's a lot of gunshot damage to their van.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Operation Titanic Book Review

Here's my book review of Operation Titanic.  Clearly, my viewers wanted me to post these videos yesterday, instead of Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy videos.







Someone asked where I got the pictures from. Four of them (Walter Welsch, Libby, Mandy and the terrorist/arms dealer) are people on my Facebook fan page.  Eric's picture is of a dentist named Eric Hardy, and the Gray Man's picture is of Franco, the cover artist.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Buying Food

You know, I don't think I'm mature enough to make food purchasing decisions for myself.  Sure, I'm no longer in my "every meal is take-out pizza" phase, but my food decisions over the past year have not been the best.

For example, I haven't had breakfast in the past six months, because I don't know how to cook it.  I've tried to cook bacon and scrambled eggs, but both experiments failed.  It's easier for me just to sleep in and skip breakfast.

Someone bought me a thing of milk recently.  I should use the milk before it goes bad, so I went to the store to buy cereal.  My decision making process was something like this:  When I was a little kid, Mom didn't want to buy Cocoa Puffs because they cost too much.  So I deliberately bought Cocoa Puffs. Take that, Mom!

Clearly, I need a more responsible adult to be in charge of my food budget.  Maybe they could force me to eat more than one meal a day.  That could be good for my health.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy Problems

I have officially beaten Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy, after getting horrendously stuck at one point.  Here's where I get unstuck.



I had the bad luck to get stuck on one of the puzzles which does not have a hint on the task bar.  And...I managed to fail on both parts of the two part puzzle.  Here's my rant, in spoiler-vision.  Highlight it to read.

Part 1: Nancy's mom says, "Why is a raven like a writing desk? Ask the raven. Follow the raven to the archives."  Somehow, this translates to "the word 'raven' is a password on the archive computer".  How are you supposed to figure that out on your own?  And why hasn't Cathedral changed their archive passwords in the past ten years?

Part 2: I have NO IDEA where the cryptography challenge comes from. The game says that Nancy gets the list of letters, by applying Kate's note (first green, second orange, third red and so on) to the Jabberwocky poem.  But I don't see how this is the case.  Kate's note only indicates eight letters, maximum, while Nancy's list has over forty letters.  Also, Nancy has spaces in her list, and Kate's clue doesn't indicate any spaces whatsoever.  Furthermore, why did they even bother giving us the Jabberwocky poem to look at, if Nancy auto-solves the "get the letters from the poem" puzzle? I guess it's just there to look nice, seeing as it's not supposed to be used to get letters from.


I bet things will make more sense to me, when I replay the game.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Miracles

Hey, let's talk about miracles, because that's way more interesting than discussing Aristotle.

The first problem with miracles is how to define the word "miracle".  Some definitions make everything into a miracle, including lucky coincidences.  Some definitions make miracles impossible.  I think we want a definition which allows for miracles, but only after thorough investigation.

Of course, I'm Catholic, and I have been influenced by the Catholic Church, which is very strict when it comes to miracles.  Depending on which source you use, only a tenth to a third of all investigated miracles are officially confirmed as miracles.

A bad definition of "miracle" is "an event that cannot be explained".  Just because a person cannot explain an event, it does not mean that said event is a miracle.  Furthermore, it is often the case that something cannot be explained at the time it happened, but it can be explained later as human knowledge increases.  Why, if George Washington was brought back to life today, he would see miracles everywhere: flying machines, self-moving cars, lights which can be controlled by switches!

The famous definition of "miracle" comes from David Hume, who defines a miracle as "a transgression of a law of nature by a particular choice of God".  He then goes on to explain that miracles don't exist, and even if they did, it would be impossible to prove it.  Imagine a court trial, if you will.  On one side, you have the evidence of every human being who ever lived, observing that the laws of nature exist.  On the other side, you have a limited group, saying that a law of nature was temporarily broken at one point.  It is impossible for the limited group to create solid enough evidence to trump the other side.  It's just not going to happen.

Even Jesus Christ, the most famous miracle-worker of all time, was met with skepticism and indifference when he performed miracles.

What do you readers think?  Are miracles possible or impossible?  If a miracle occurs, is it possible to show that it was caused by God and not some other, unknown cause?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Q&A Session

1. People will argue that there's no proof for the existence of God, but as a thought experiment, what sort of proof would be acceptable to everyone?

I mean...since God is non-physical, then I would presume that any physical evidence is automatically invalid.  Right?

And every single miracle gets denounced as a fake, even the well-documented ones like the miracle of the sun or Jesus' resurrection from the dead.  We'll talk about miracles later, but is there any miracle so convincing that it would confound all skeptics?

Huh.  I wonder what people say, when discussing the existence of other non-physical things, such as freedom, dreams, the soul, the subconscious and mathematical concepts like numbers.

2. In response to me saying that Jehovah's Witnesses think the Bible is a science textbook, someone said, "As a Jehovah's Witness I can confidently say that you are completely wrong about that statement you made. We do not believe that the bible is a scientific textbook AT ALL! Can I ask where you got that idea from?"

I got that information from the Jehovah's Witnesses who showed up at my house, with a pamphlet for me to read.  I kept the pamphlet, read through it, then put it in recycling.  They could have been feeding me false information.

3. "Although this is all very interesting, it’s just an idea, a hypothesis at best. None of Aristotle’s ideas here have concrete evidence supporting his assertions. I could just as easily use his arguments to claim there are multiple immobile movers, thus proving polytheism. It would be unfeasible to assume only one immobile mover caused multiple reactions across the span of trillions and trillions and trillions of miles (i.e. the Big Bang.)

Like I said, interesting ideas, but let’s keep in mind that nothing here is proven. After all, does it mean, if we don’t understand something, and an international community of physicists don’t understand it, that means God (or an immobile mover) did it? I don’t think that’s a fair conclusion. If it was, there’s a whole laundry list of things past physicists didn't understand at the time, that current physicists do."

Yep, Aristotle was a polytheist.  He believed in multiple gods, one per planet.  A modern polytheist would probably say one god per galaxy, or something.  I'll discuss why this is not the case, later on.  The short version of the argument is that you can either believe in one, unlimited god, or multiple, limited gods.  You run into a logical error, if you have multiple unlimited gods or one, limited god.

I just want to re-emphasize that Aristotle does not say, "I don't know where movement comes from, therefore, it comes from God".  He says, "I have proven it is logically impossible for movement to have a physical source.  Therefore, it comes from a non-physical source, i.e. God."  There are other places in his writings where Aristotle admits he doesn't know something, and he challenges future scholars to figure out the correct explanation.  This is not one of those places.

4. Joanofarc77 quoted someone who said, "Most Christians don't read the bible. It's like a computer software agreement, people just scroll to the bottom and click 'I accept'"

That's rather accurate.  In my experience, people just pick and choose the parts of a religion they like, rejecting those they don't like.

5. Someone mentioned intelligent design versus creationism.  I must admit, I am wholly ignorant when it comes to this debate, so I can't contribute to a discussion on it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Aristotle's Proof from Being

The Greek word for "after" is "meta".  Once he finished writing Physics, Aristotle wrote Metaphysics, which literally means "the topic that comes after physics".  It's not the most creative title ever, but then again, he probably never expected his lecture notes to be published.

Metaphysics deals with being and the nature of existence.  Aristotle notes that there are two kinds of being: necessary being and contingent being.  In other words, there are some things which have to exist, and some things which do not have to exist.  For example, when I drop an apple, it necessarily falls to the ground.  It can't not fall to the ground.  Compare this to what happens when I tell a joke.  The audience's laughter does not necessarily happen; it is possible they will not laugh.

Aristotle's first major point is that it is impossible for everything to be contingent.  There must be at least one necessary thing.  And this is because of the way contingent things exist. A contingent thing does not exist until it is generated, at which point it starts to corrupt until it ceases to exist.  If a thing exists contingently, that means that, in a previous time, it did not exist. If everything is contingent, then there was a previous time when nothing existed.  Or, to put it another way, if everything could possibly not exist, it is possible there was a time when nothing existed.

To summarize, if you claim that nothing has to exist, then you get yourself stuck with a situation where nothing existed at all.  And then nothing would ever begin to exist, because there would be nothing to make the non-existent things exist.  Therefore, it is impossible for everything to be contingent; there must be at least one thing which exists necessarily.

So, there must be at least one necessary thing, to explain the existence of non-necessary things.  And as Aristotle's other proofs have shown, we cannot have an infinite chain of necessary beings, getting their necessity from other necessary beings.  The chain must begin with something whose existence is completely necessary, in and of itself.  And this is what we call God, whose essence is existence.

To put it another way, God causes his own existence.  This is your answer to "Who created God?".  Since God's existence is necessary, God is uncreated.

There is debate on whether or not multiple necessary things exist.  Aristotle thought they did.  St. Thomas Aquinas agrees; he says that souls and angels have necessary being, because they are immaterial and non-composite.  But even if they have necessary being like God, they are not God, seeing as they get their existence from God.

That is Aristotle's final proof for the existence of God.  Tomorrow, I'll do another Q&A session, then skip ahead a thousand years, to when the next major proof for the existence of God was formulated.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Aristotle's Proofs, from Changes and Causes

Today should be the last day I talk about Aristotle's Physics.  He gives two more proofs for the existence of God, these ones based on changes and cause and effect.

This is similar to his proof based on motion. Aristotle's proof from motion started from the premise that nothing moves itself.  Similarly, his proof from change starts from the premise that nothing can change itself.  Otherwise, this leads to the illogical situation, where a thing is actively changing itself, while passively being changed by itself.  This means it is both active and passive in the same action.

To look at it another way, when a thing changes, it gains a new quality which was previously a potential quality.  For an example, let's take me logging on to the Internet.  When I do that, I change from being a potential Internet user to an actual Internet user.  Note that it is impossible for me to be a potential Internet user and an actual Internet user at the same time; it's either one or the other, not both.

Anything that is in the process of change is being changed by something else.  Changes cannot go on indefinitely, and you can't have an infinite line of things changing each other, in the same way that you can't have an infinite line of things moving each other.  The series of changes has to start somewhere, with an unchanged changer.

If you prefer, you can replace "change" with "cause and effect".  If you have an effect, there must be a cause attached to it, because nothing can cause itself.  A series of "cause and effect" can't go on forever; logic tells us that the series starts with a first cause.  Therefore, there must be a general first cause, an uncaused causer.

Yes, I'm kind of rushing the explanation here, but I know you readers are smart enough to follow along.  Aristotle's three proofs basically boil down to this:

1. (Pick one: motion, change, causes) are not self-generated. They are only transferred.
2. You can't have an infinite series of (motion/change/causes) being transferred from one thing to another.
3.  Therefore, the (motion/change/causes) we experience in the world started with something that is not (moved/changed/caused).

The form of the argument is the same in all three proofs, although the content is different in each proof.  Aristotle invented logic, and as you would expect, his deduction is 100% logical; the conclusion naturally follows from the two premises.  Whenever someone disagrees with Aristotle's argument, it is either because they believe Premise 1 is false, or they object to something else entirely, such as the tendency to identify the unmoved mover with God.

(John Locke, whose portrait is used for Corbin Penvellyn in Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmore Manor, is one of the few people who disagreed with Premise 2.  His argument is based on the idea that something can have a beginning and still be eternal, but that'd take us a bit off-topic, unless you want me to explain it in more detail.)

If we take these three proofs for the existence of God, what kind of god emerges?  Aristotle proves that this god is non-physical, and that it is responsible for movement and change in the physical universe.  It is also responsible for causes, but that's more of a secondary quality; once this god caused movement, it ipso facto became responsible for causes.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Plato and Aristotle

Aristotle's teacher was Plato.  Plato taught that the soul is what causes movement.  In simplified form, his argument is that only living things can move themselves, and all living things have souls, therefore, the soul is what causes things to move.

Aristotle thought Plato's thoughts on this subject were mostly garbage.  Aristotle particularly disliked Plato's conclusion that the universe moves in an orderly fashion, therefore, it must have a soul.  Aristotle outright rejected the idea of a "universe soul" that causes the universe to move, or a god that physically moves the universe.

This leads to the question of how movement works.  Is it all physical?  Humans can certainly be moved to action by non-physical things, such as ideas, the soul, or the subconscious.  How do we account for those movements?  Is it "cheating" to say "oh, those are just random chemical reactions in the brain"?

The problem we run into is the fact that all movement can't be physical.  That just leads to a huge chain of movement, going from one thing to another.  The chain can't go on forever, so it has to stop or start somewhere.  Logically speaking, it can't stop with something physical, because that would just be another link on the chain; therefore, it must stop with something non-physical.

And that's why Aristotle claims there must be a non-physical thing, which affects the physical world.  There is no other way to explain the existence of movement.  He rejects the idea of a god like Atlas, who physically moves the universe, because such a god would, in turn, be affected by the world.  As everyone points out, it's illogical that Atlas can stand on the world, at the same time he holds the world two meters away from his feet.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Q&A Again

I scheduled a Q&A after Aristotle's first proof for the existence of God.

1. A couple of commenters clearly believe the cultural myth that religion is completely against science.  This is true of some religions, not all of them.  The only one that comes to my mind right now are the Jehovah's Witnesses (who wrongly believe that the Bible is a science textbook).

History lesson: the modern version of the Big Bang Theory was developed by a Catholic priest.  His thought process was something like, "We Catholics have known the world started at a specific point, for almost two thousand years now.  Let's use science to prove this."  So he went ahead and did it, and it was awesome.

...Scientists never give the Catholic Church any credit for this.  I think they're still mad because the Catholic Church banned that one book Galileo wrote.  Guys, it was 500 years ago.  Get over it.  Besides, that book was banned because G-dizzles used it to launch personal attacks against the Pope, not because of scientific reasons.

And of course, that book shouldn't be confused with G-dizzles' book which was shut down for scientific reasons (namely, lack of proof), by a completely different group.

2. It bears repeating that Aristotle was Greek who lived 300-400 years before the birth of Jesus.  He believed in the Greek gods (Zeus, Hera, Athena and the like).  This is less a proof for the existence of capital-G God, and more a proof for the existence of lower-g gods.  I forget the exact number, but his astronomy text calculates something like 44-70 gods.

And, of course, this is over 2000 years before the Big Bang Theory was developed, so he didn't take that into account.

3. Let's take another look at things.  Is Aristotle being intellectually lazy and using "God did it" as a convenient excuse to explain how physics works?  "Motion can only be transferred, not generated.  So, in order for motion to exist in the first place, there must be a god who generates movement."

I think Aristotle's saving grace (pardon the pun) here is that he specifically avoids using the word "god".  He uses the term "immobile mover", something which generates movement without itself being moved.  He applies absolutely no qualities or properties to this thing, besides for the two that it logically must have, in order to account from the generation of movement.

So really, it could be that the "immobile mover" is just a large lava lamp, not a god.  Aristotle would be 100% cool with that.

4. Would it be legitimate to apply Aristotle's ideas of motion to something else?  Modern physics teaches that "energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed".  Therefore, I conclude that, in order for energy to exist, there must be something like "an uncreated creator".

Actually...where does energy come from, if it can't be created?  I don't know.  I never took physics in high school.

Also, I hear people say "mass cannot be created or destroyed, only changed". So maybe I can apply Aristotle's theories to the existence of mass.  Mass exists, because God exists, and people go to mass every Sunday because of God!  This is a great proof.

5. I didn't realize it until just now, but the Christian version of Aristotle's argument is, um...different.  I guess that means I'll have to make a separate section for Aristotle's proof, and the Christian version of it.  You readers don't mind, right?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Common Misconceptions

Here are common misconceptions about Aristotle's proof for the existence of God, based on the fact that motion exists.

Misconception 1: The Big Bang theory completely discredits this proof.

We can confidently say that the Big Bang is the source of all motion in the known universe.  However, Aristotle's questions about motion still apply here.  Namely, what set the Big Bang in motion?

Modern science has no definitive answer to that question.  Therefore, Aristotle would continue to conclude that there must be an immobile mover responsible for movement.

Misconception 2: Aristotle proved the existence of a creator god.

No, Aristotle proves the existence of a god, who is the source of all movement.  Aristotle did not believe in a creator god, because he though the world exists forever.  Those two notions of God were separate in Aristotle's mind.

As a side note, when St. Paul preached in Athens (the town where Aristotle lived for many years), he made the connection between "God as creator" and "God as source of all movement".  Specifically, he said, "The God who made the world and all that is in it...gives to everyone life and breath and everything...In him we live and we move and we have our being" (Acts 17:24-8, emphasis mine).

Misconception 3: The primary mover only caused movement once.

Aristotle's proof shows that there is a god, who is the source of all movement.  This god is responsible for the first movement, ever.  However, Aristotle did not believe this was a one-time thing.  He believed that this god continues to create movement, while remaining unmoved.

Aristotle theorized that each planet has its own unmoved-mover god, who makes the planet move. In part, this is why all the planets in our solar system are named after Greek gods.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Aristotle's Proof from Motion

Most of the ancient Greeks believed that the existence of the gods was self-evident, so they did not bother to spend time trying to prove their existence.

The scientist-philosopher Aristotle offers a proof for the existence of God in his seventh physics book.  In this book, he talks about motion and inertia; he starts by proving the claim "everything that is in motion must be moved by something."  In modern physics, we call this Newton's First Law of Motion.  You might remember these from school:
  • An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it.
  • An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an external force acts upon it.
Aristotle gives three arguments to prove "everything that is moved is moved by something else".  I could discuss these, if you readers want me to.  I don't think it's necessary to prove it, because modern physics agrees with Aristotle's Physics on this.

Okay, so everything is either at rest or in motion, unless an external force acts upon it.  Naturally, the external force itself must either be at rest or in motion.  This gives us two possible scenarios for the existence of movement:

1. There is an infinite sequence of things which move other things.
2. The sequence of things which move other things has a starting point, or a first movement.

The second situation is the one we're interested in.  Logically speaking, the first movement must be caused by something immobile; otherwise, it's just another step in the sequence of things which move other things.  This immobile mover is what we call "God", who can create from nothing and move things without being moved.

Aristotle gives three reasons why Scenario #1 is incorrect, meaning Scenario #2 has to be true.  Again, modern physics agrees with Aristotle that there is a starting point where all motion comes from, i.e. the big bang.  Here's his reasoning for why movement is not generated by an infinite sequence.

---

1. Some ancients believed the universe was a perpetual motion machine, like a giant game of "ring-around-the-rosie" in which a group of children hold hands and run around in a circle.  This scenario allegedly generates infinite movement, because each child is being pulled, at the same time that the child is pulling someone.  Note that all these motions must be simultaneous, or the system falls apart.

It's impossible to get infinite movement in this scenario, because each individual movement is finite.  You get stuck in a scenario of infinite motion in finite time.  "And since the motion of A and that of each of the others are simultaneous, the whole motion must occupy the same time as the motion of A: but the time occupied by the motion of A is finite: consequently the motion will be infinite in a finite time, which is impossible."

This is actually a double proof, because infinite motion is impossible in finite time and in finite movement.

2. The other ancient hypothesis for infinite movement is a system that has ordered movement, not simultaneous movement.  In other words, the system has an ordered series of movers and things that are moved.  You can think of this as a series of dominoes or as a Rube Goldberg machine.

That scenario doesn't work, when you consider the intermediary dominoes.  They don't move on their own; they all depend upon the first domino for their movement.  Take away the first domino, and the entire sequence is stopped.

Well, in an infinite series of dominoes, every single domino would fall under the category of "intermediary mover".  Hence, none of them move on their own.  Hence, nothing in the system would ever move.

3. Similarly, the scenario falls apart when you consider how secondary movers work.  A secondary mover always follows a primary mover.  If the imaginary infinite series of dominoes, you have nothing but secondary movers, without a primary mover.  Hence none of them move, and the system generates no movement.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Q&A

Okay, time for me to respond to reader comments over the past few days, before the comment pile gets too long.  Mostly, the comments are from C.  Oh, and Vast Universe, you gotta send me a Youtube email or something, so we can discuss the off-topic questions you brought up.

1.  How can we prove the Great Wall of China exists?  C says "I guess when you can take your skeptic along with you on a plane to China and show him the Great Wall, make him feel it, take pictures of it himself. Even if he couldn't afford it or wouldn't want to go, if he did go, he would be able to see and touch it for himself. Anyone and everyone in the world would. There would not be one single instance where a visitor went to the spot where the Great Wall is located and didn't see it standing right in front of them, unless they are blind or anything."

And the referee has just called a foul on your argument here!  Our imaginary skeptic refuses to accept sensory information as valid proof of a thing's existence. In the blot post, the skeptic specifically denies "I saw the Great Wall myself" as legitimate proof.  It could have been a hallucination, brought on by drugs that were unknowingly injected into his body.

Also, if your argument isn't changed a bit, you'll end up with the conclusion that only non-blind people can know the Great Wall of China exists.

2. C: "And even if we are [computer simulations], it doesn't matter, because the Wall would still exist in our frame of reference. It would be no more real than the sky, but to us, the sky is real."

Whoa, what?  I should think it matters a great deal if the Great Wall is real, or if it's a computer simulation!  I don't want to live in a fantasy world, whether this world is of my own creation or someone else's.  I don't care of the Great Wall is real to me; I care if it's real, period, end of sentence.

3. C: "And the standard or proof is that something is verifiable, by anyone and everyone. Everyone must be able to see and touch the Great Wall. Everyone must be able to take two apples, and two apples, and make four apples."

Problem #1: This standard is not verifiable, by anyone and everyone.  It fails to live up to its own standards.  Still...that's the standard the American legal system uses (or tries to use).  When it gets abused, people end up treating truth as something determined by majority vote/consensus, as opposed to an independent standard.

Problem #2: I dunno if you know this, but 2+2=5 is a somewhat popular idea.  It has its own Wikipedia page, and it was on The Fairly Oddparents, for what it's worth.

In real life, i.e. when I am not debating epistemology, I am overly casual when it comes to proof. I'm a pretty trusting guy; if you tell me something, I'll believe you unless I have good reason not to.

4.  Anonymous: "There are some people in this world that just feel they know everything and they tell other people that they are fools to believe in God or the Bible. I remember when I used to be an atheist, I wanted to shatter everyone's faith and belief, so they could lose their hope. I wanted them to be like me. And that is the deal with a lot of people out there. But they don't say it."

I know a Catholic Bishop who thanked militant atheists like that, because they dedicated their lives to talking about God to everyone they met.  "Your belief in God is very strong indeed," he said.  For a person cannot be an atheist, unless they believe there is something to atheate, in the same way that there cannot be prohibition without something to prohibit.

5. Anonymous: "American atheists are completely different from European atheists because Americans are reacting to a frankly hostile Christian environment. Under Texas law, atheists can't run for public office. Bush put a 6 year freeze on funding for stem cell research because God told him to. For a land that is supposed to have freedom of religion, America is not tolerant towards non-thiests, and the non-thiests reflect this. European thiests and athiests get along better because they don't make laws oppressing athiests, or laws based on what they think God wants."

You'll be hard pressed to find this in the news, but America is also extremely intolerant towards "the wrong kind" of theists, which would include Catholics. We've seen our fair share of anti-Catholic laws, such as the state-mandated shutdown of every Catholic orphanage in Illinois, forced usage of church property in Hawaii, and most prominently, Obamacare's mandate that Catholic hospitals provide and pay for abortions. So I would say the general tendency is for Americans to be intolerant towards anyone who disagrees with them, whether or not the dissenters are religious.

As for Europe, I can only speak about the Church of England, mainly because they speak the same language as I do. The government still runs the church in that country. Religion there is more political than I'd like.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy

Here are all four videos I've done so far, for Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy. If I'm productive, I'll be able to make more videos for the game tomorrow!  (If you look at the timestamps, you'll notice it took me something like three hours, just to upload these four videos, so...no promises).








Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy

The new Nancy Drew game comes out today, for everyone who preordered it!  That includes me! Expect me to post videos here, as soon as I get the chance.

Here's the tentative schedule for what videos I'll release this week:

Monday: Dr. Blackmore
Tuesday: Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy
Wednesday: Dr. Blackmore
Thursday: Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy
Friday: Dr. Blackmore
Saturday: Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy
Sunday: Slender: The Eight Pages

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ancient Religion

Okay, so I bored everyone to death by talking about epistemology. Let's see if my notes on ancient religion are a little more exciting.

Ancient religion developed long before writing did, so our knowledge on this topic is incomplete. Religions arose naturally in all parts of the world, indicating that there is a religious instinct deep inside humans. Humans develop a religious life to try to make sense of transcendent things that they can't control or explain. They know they are not in control of the world, so they search for who or what is.

Anthropology teaches us that the religious process begins with experience. People reflected upon their experiences, and from there, they generated religious rituals and beliefs. Ritual can be seen as the primal act of religious instinct; you can even find them in cultures without a god. Rituals are designed to align people to the sacred reality; they are an interaction with the divine. Often, rituals are repetitive and imitate what they're supposed to produce.

One important element of ritual is sacrifice. Sacrifice literally means "to make something holy (sacro)". Sometimes this involves injecting holiness into something profane, but usually it is a recognition of something that is already holy. Sacrifice points to an awareness that reality is holy.

A second important element of ritual is the meal, which has always been tied to sacrifice. In a normal meal, the meal energizes us and connects us to the world we got the food from. In a sacred meal, there is an exchange; the meal gives nourishment to the human, and the human's labor creates the meal. From what we can tell, the sacred meal predates belief in gods. When beliefs in gods develop, the original beliefs connected to the sacred meal are changed.

We cannot point to a specific moment in history where the idea of God appeared. We know that, after the development of ritual in the ancient world, the development of myth followed. A myth is a narrative account of a sacred reality that serves to bring meaning and coherence to human existence. An example would be the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation story.

Myths come from the reflections upon the rituals. They tend to lead one back to the rituals; that is, they explain why certain rituals work. They give us greater understanding into the rituals, and people tend to bring this greater understanding into the rituals. This ends up being a circular process; the myths influence the rituals, which influence the myths, which influence the rituals, and so on.

Rational theology is myth in intelligible form. For example, our creation story in Genesis is a myth that explains how creation came about. The myth came out of a reflection of the Jewish experience of God. This is why Genesis has two creation myths; one focuses on the goodness of creation, while the other focuses on the dignity of humanity.

So that's how ancient religion developed.  First there was experience, which gave rise to rituals and beliefs.  These led to myths, which led to rational theology.  All of these "stages of religion", we might call them, work together simultaneously and influence each other.
  • The corruption of ritual is magic, where people start to think rituals are used to control the divine, whereas ritual is supposed to lead us to the divine.
  • The corruption of myth is idolatry, when we think myths completely describe reality and refuse to change them. In this way, we close ourselves off to reality. Instead of opening us up to the divine, the myths put the divine in a box.
  • The corruption of rational theology is rationalism, when rational theology confines itself to human thought. It doesn't return its insights to myth and ritual, but just stays where it is.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Note On Proof

When I first moved to Oregon, I tried to get an Oregon driver's license.  The Oregon DMV refused to give me a driver's license, until I proved two things.

1. That I am, in fact, Michael Gray.
2. That I do, in fact, live in Oregon.
Most people don't want proof of these things; they take me at face value when I say that I am Michael Gray, and I live in Oregon.  In fact, in order to vote, saying that you a registered voter is all the proof you need.

To prove that I was not a Michael Gray impersonator, I took out my California driver's license.  The DMV did not accept that as a valid ID.
They also did not accept the fact that I was in an Oregon DMV as proof that I live in Oregon.  They did not accept my credit card records or receipts.  Mail sent to an Oregon address with my name on it would not count as proof, and in my particular case, they would not accept a letter from my landlord, stating that I live in the house I rent.

The moral of the story is that what you consider to be "valid proof" varies from person to person.  You might want to keep this is mind, as I discuss the proofs for the existence of God.  Odds are that you will like some of them, but not others.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Belief and Knowledge

In the past two days, I talked about belief, knowledge and facts.

Now, I said that knowledge is a belief that has been proven.  But most people, like our friend Professor Garfield, think that "belief" is the exact opposite of "fact".  But knowledge and belief can't be polar opposites, because people believe facts.  The two must be related somehow.

Here's the problem that everyone runs up against.  How can you know if you know something?  At what point can you confidently say "this is a fact" or "this is a belief"?

For example, let's take the statement "the Great Wall of China exists".  What proof can I present, to show this is true?  Can I ever come up with proof that is so convincing that the world's greatest skeptic will accept it?

Proof
Skeptical Response
 
 
I saw it in Mulan.
That's just a movie.
I read it in a book.
The book is fictional.
My friend visited the Great Wall.
He's lying.
He took pictures.
Photoshopped.
I went there myself.
That was just a dream.
I saw the Great Wall personally.
You hallucinated.

If you play the "what counts as good enough proof" game, you can disprove pretty much anything, besides for "I am currently thinking".  Everything I see and experience could just be a vivid hallucination, brought on by an evil demon.  Or like the movie The Matrix, I could be living in a detailed computer simulation, without knowing it.

I tried to resolve the problem, by saying you can have false knowledge and true knowledge, in the same way that you can have false beliefs and true beliefs.  What do you readers say?  Am I just a charlatan?  Is there a satisfactory way to describe the relationship among truth, knowledge and belief?  Is there a standard of proof that is sufficient to remove all doubts from a situation?

Bonus mind-warcking question: How do you account for true knowledge of false things, like the statement "all unicorns have horns"?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Belief

Belief is the conviction that something is true or false.
  • I believe the Nancy Drew videogame series is awesome.
  • I don't believe soccer is an interesting sport.
  • "I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky. I think about it every night and day."--R. Kelly.
Belief is not the same as opinion.  Opinions are neither true or false, but beliefs can be true or false.

According to Plato, beliefs become knowledge when they are justified.  If you have a good reason for believing something, then your belief becomes knowledge.  For example, I believe Abrahamn Lincoln died in 1865.  I believe this, because I read it in a book.  This means I know Abraham Lincoln died in 1865, and I can confidently state that as a fact, not as an opinion or an unjustified belief.

Obviously, it is possible to have false knowledge. That is what you call it, when a person believes something which is not true.  It does not matter how justified their belief is; even if you have a good reason to believe something false, it is still false knowledge.

10% of the time, we believe things because we saw them or figured them out in our minds.  90% of the time, we believe things on the testimony of other people.  Those beliefs include everything that happened before you were born, and everything that happens outside of your current location.  You weren't around to see those things yourself, but you still believe they happened.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Types of Knowledge

It's difficult to talk about knowledge today.  For the past 400 years or so, the study of knowledge has been extremely mixed up and confused.  Half the people who study it end up deciding they can't know anything, and the other half don't know anything besides how to use long words like phenomenology, anamnesis and epistemology.

But I don't want to confuse you readers, so I'm going to use common language.  Okay?

People speak of three different places where you can know something: in your body, in your mind, and in your heart.  Each one works in a different way, to give you a different type of knowledge.  Here's a chart:
  • Mind—The intellect uses reason, which results in wisdom.
  • Body—The senses uses experience, which gives us knowledge or intelligence.
  • Soul—The intuition uses perception, which gives us understanding.
Examples:
  • My reason tells me that two parallel lines will never meet.
  • I know it is sunny today, because I can see the sky.
  • I believe that the Great Wall of China exists.
There can be overlap between the three types of knowledge.  For example, I can know something with my mind, and then later confirm it is true with my senses.  Or I can ponder something in my mind and use intuition to perceive that it is true.

Sometimes, there is no overlap between the three types of knowledge.  For example, an infinite line or the subconscious mind cannot be perceived by the senses. That makes it impossible to have sense-knowledge of those things.  You can have knowledge about them, yes, but not through the senses.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Proofs for the Existence of God

Okay, everyone, here's the list of proofs for the existence of God that I can talk about.  I have no idea how I should order these topics, so...leave a comment and let me know what you want to see!
  1. Aristotle on God as the Final Cause
  2. The Teleological Argument
  3. The Ontological Argument
  4. St. Thomas' Aquinas Five Ways
  5. Pacal's Wager
  6. Kant's Moral Argument
  7. Cardinal Newman's Proof from the Existence of Conscience
  8. Religious Experience
There are also several other discussion topics I have in the folder for the presentation.
  1. The Impossibility of Proving God's Existence
  2. Ancient Religion and Ancient Ancient Religion
  3. The Nature of Proof
  4. Knowledge and Belief
  5. The Divine Attributes
  6. The Problem of Evil
  7. Miracles
  8. John Paul II's book, Faith and Reason

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

God And Reason, Responses

Here are my repsonses to various comments on yesterday's blog.

1. My plan is to prove the existence of God, before moving onto the question of "What is God like?".  That makes sense, right?  I don't want to put the cart before the horse.

2. This is a philosophical project, which means I am limiting myself to arguments based on reason and experience.  I'll try to avoid making theological arguments, even if it might be tempting to "cheat" and use something like a quotation from the Pope as a "shortcut".

With that said, here are things which will probably not be discussed, as they don't directly relate to the proofs for the existence of God.
  • Evolution
  • The Bible
  • Specific religious denominations
I'm sure that will disappoint some people who want to see a discussion topic like "Why Puritanism is Incorrect" or "Is Jesus God? An Inquiry into Consubstantiality and Other Long Words".

3. In response to Vast Universe, individual spirituality or (religious) experience of God is on the list of topics to discuss. Since it only applies to an individual, though, people generally dismiss it as an invalid proof for the existence of God.

4. Recently, I read a nice article on the beliefs of infants.  The author concluded that, as far as babies are concerned, you can't safely make conclusions that go beyond "babies find silly faces to be amusing" and "babies believe loud, unexpected noises are scary".

Monday, October 7, 2013

God and Reason

You know what? I want to have another one of those longish philosophical discussions with you blog readers.  It just so happens that I'm due to give a presentation on the proofs for the existence of God sometime next year, so let's go with that as our topic.

Introduction

The Catholic Church teaches that the existence of God can be known with complete certainty, from the natural light of human reason alone.  In fact, all elements of the Catholic faith are reasonable and logical, because both faith and reason come from God.  Since they have the same source, they do not and cannot contradict each other.  [If it seems like science and religion are contradicting each other, then you either have bad science or bad religion.]

"Even though faith is above reason, there can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since it is the same God who reveals the mysteries and infuses faith, and who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason.  God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be in opposition to truth." (Vatican I)

The Church's teaching on faith and reason is contrary to at least two different groups.
  • The Authoritarians, who teach that all elements of faith must be accepted, without any reasonable proof.  An authoritarian would say something like, "God exists and you have to believe in him, because I said so."
  • The Sentimentalists, who put all matters of faith into the realm of feelings.  They say that internal experience or private inspiration is the only way to come to faith.  A sentimentalist would say something like, "I know God exists, because I can feel it in my heart."
By coincidence, the new atheists also oppose these groups.  The new atheists agree that religion and science, faith and reason, should not contradict each other.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Halloween Decorations

Here are the Halloween decorations I came up with yesterday. Hopefully my neighbors won't complain or take them away.


Total Cost: Less than ten dollars.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Conscience

I'm still a little concerned about how the conscience works, so I did a bit of research. It looks like there are two main categories that can be applied here.

1. Certainty. A conscience can be certain or uncertain. Either you know something is good, or you are uncertain if it is good.
2. Secondly, a conscience can be correct or incorrect. Your knowledge of morality can either be true or false.

From what I can tell, the chart looks like this:
































Certain Conscience

Uncertain Conscience

Correct Conscience

Best

Bad

Incorrect Conscience

Good

Worse

As you can clearly see, it is more important to be certain that you're doing the right thing, than it is to actually do the right thing.  I had no idea this was a moral principle, but it makes perfect sense.

After all, a person who accidentally breaks the rules is not as guilty as much as someone who knowingly breaks the rules.  And again, someone who purposely does good things is better than someone who accidentally does good things.

But how do we apply this general principle today?  Think of any of the great ethical debates: gay marriage, abortion, war, poverty.  Both sides are 100% certain that they are 100% correct.  In other words, they have certainty, which is the important part.  But correctness?  Well...since two opposites can't both be correct, only one side has the best case scenario.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies Demo

Here are the videos of me playing the demo for Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies.








Thursday, October 3, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. Thanks to everyone, who responded to my questions about digital cameras.

I'm about 99% sure that my parents don't care about camera quality, in terms of whether a picture was taken by an iPhone or a Canon. When they first got an HD TV, they spent about a month, complaining that they could not tell the difference between the HD channels and normal channels.  "They look exactly the same!"

2. Yesterday, a schoolteacher accused me of trying to make innocent people feel guilty. I find this to be a rather odd accusation.

After all, when I taught in school, none of my fourth graders ever felt bad for talking out of turn, disrupting class, not paying attention, etc.  They were guilty, and they felt perfectly innocent.  If I can't make guilty people admit their guilt, how am I supposed to make innocent people admit to false guilt?  But more importantly, why would I bother to do that?  What possible benefit could I get from deliberately causing psychological damage?

3. Yesterday, I bought a new pair of shoes, because I had a coupon.  This is the first time I bought shoes by myself, and I feel like an adult now. Let's celebrate the fact that I have two pairs of shoes with a song from one of the women who played Nancy Drew.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Church Reform

So, the United States political system is looking bad now.  Let's talk about a different government in need of reform.  Specifically, the Catholic Church!

On October 1-3, Pope Francis is meeting with the G-8, or as I like to call them, "Pope Francis and the Reform Crew". Pope Francis has already stated that the group will not be a one-time-only thing, and they are going to help him govern the church and reform how things work in Rome.  Reforming the Vatican bureaucracy was one of the major issues that was brought up multiple times, during the meetings that were held before the Pope's election.

The group is not limiting itself to Roman issues alone.  One issue they intend to tackle is "how the Catholic Church handles divorced/remarried Catholics".  I'm told this issue has been really bad in the United States, ever since the country changed the definition of marriage to allow for divorce.  The new American laws didn't fit with the Church laws, and it apparently is a big mess that still needs to be cleaned up.

What other issues are they going to tackle?  Well...there are a lot.  People have submitted over 80 documents/proposals for the group to look at. On top of that, I'm sure that the group members have their own ideas and issues that they will bring to the table.

This is a closed meeting.  Only the Pope, the eight cardinals and a secretary (Bishop Marcello Semeraro) will attend.  Most likely, we won't ever learn what happened at the meetings; we'll just find out the results.  I'm excited for this, even though the possible discussion topics that have been suggested so far don't personally affect me.

I should note that we don't know when/how the results of the meetings will be made public.  Obviously, that depends on what changes the group wants to make. Please pray for Pope Francis and the G-8, that they may be led by the Holy Spirit to make the correct decisions!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

EBT News

In the news today, the US Government shut down, due to lack of funding.  Or, at least, parts of the government shut down.  Certain parts, like the military, are still running.

Personally, I had no idea this was going to happen.  When it comes to government finances, my attention was fixed on the food stamps program, also called EBT.  The government starts a new fiscal year today, and with it comes a partial cut in the funding for the food stamps program.

The poverty line in Portland, OR is $1,771 a month.  Half the time, I make more than the poverty limit, and half of the time, I don't.  For example, last month, I made $1784.13.  I'm sure when taxes are removed from that, I'll be well under the poverty line.

For the entire summer, I made around $1,959 per month.  I think that puts me above the poverty line.  I don't know, because taxes haven't been removed yet.  But I was fairly confident I was above the poverty line this summer.

Therefore, I was surprised last month, when I learned that I was given regular food stamps during the summer.  Now my account has over $700 on the card, and there is no way I can eat that much food by myself.  I don't know what went wrong, because the government received notice of my paychecks during those months, and it should have known I was out of poverty during that quarter.  I mean, I personally visited the government offices twice over the summer and gave them my full budget information.

...Maybe there's a reason the government shut down, due to lack of funding today.