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@Trisha B You're probably right about that. Sometimes I can be a bit over-optimistic about peoples' humanity, even for zealots like he. My error.

6 months, 1 week ago on Dear Mr Abbott


Well put, Marty. I understand you've sent this to Abbott's office. It will be interesting to see the reply.

6 months, 2 weeks ago on Dear Mr Abbott


I'm currently reading several books, among them Don Prothero's 'Reality Check' and 'Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors' by Sagan and Druyan. Both books discuss the human problem, one from an analysis of science denial, the other from the origins of that problem going back to the origin of life, and how that's affected our psychology as a species. What you've posted here fits into what I've read so far in both books. It underscores the dangers of dogmatic belief systems, especially of ideologies anywhere on the political landscape. Human exceptionalism, especially enshrined in politics and fed by a denial of facts, may well be the death of us all.

7 months ago on Climate, Environment, Economics and Human Well-Being


I remember seeing fireflies myself as a child in the southern US, and what a sight they were. I was too young at the time to connect their flashes with the paranormal or superstitious beliefs, but years after the fact I can easily see them as one of many perfectly reasonable explanations for seemingly mysterious lights.

10 months, 1 week ago on Fireflies – Notes from Borneo


You raise some good points I hadn't considered. The connection between the forbidden mixing of non-people and the drive for ethnic purity fits in well with the Old Testament narrative. This is often forgotten by those in the modern era who still maintain these and similar practices without understanding the reasons for their origins. In some cases, the justification for such practices, arbitrary and no longer practical in the modern world is, "We stick to these commandments because they are hard, not because they make sense," with the hardship of practicing them presumably bringing the believer "closer to God."

10 months, 3 weeks ago on Smashing Superstitions – A Way to Divide


It's especially disturbing that the more doctrinaire Conservatives either deny the problem exists out of genuine unawareness of the situation because of ignorance, and partisan 'my side' bias, or they disingenously dismiss it when it's brought up because they themselves are activists in the movement and have a stake in promoting 'the cause.' 

I know a few in the former category, though I've yet to really pin down the latter in aquaintances. It's shocking to me how politically naive some Conservatives I know are about the goings on in their own movements and the prevalence of simplistic idealism that blinds them to political realities. 

This is dangerous, especially when I hear them in one breath make such a fuss about what great independent thinkers they are, and in another, parrot some long debunked talking point they've heard on radio talk-shows. Methinks they doth protest too much.

This is frightening, but well put, Martin.

11 months, 1 week ago on The Dangers of Dominionism


I'd add that there also exist objective facts about subjective states, like the fact that I prefer listening to Duran Duran to listening to Anthrax. That would count as an objectively verifiable state, where the brainscanning technique which could detect and measure the brainstate be used. It is something that is true to me, and it remains true until I change my mind no matter what anyone else may claim to know about my musical tastes. They may objectively have brainstates relating to and indicating differing tastes in music, independent of anything anyone may otherwise claim to know about that, including me. Good post, Martin.

1 year, 1 month ago on The Argument of Truth From Personal Experience


Very good, Martin. You've given me a lot to ponder. It vexes me that I was on the wrong continent to attend the talk.

1 year, 2 months ago on Hyper-Skepticism, Cynicism, Conspiracy Theory – Some More States of Disbelief


I remember another passage by Frank Herbert, I think also in the first Dune book, I'll paraphrase as, "Faith is among the greatest of motivators." Well, I suspect that given your post, fear is a close companion to faith, and all too often used to justify faith, as with the assumptions going into Pascal's wager and as you note, the more visceral threats of damnation by fundamentalists. As a former Adventist, fear and I were old companions, fear of even the slightest shortcoming. I must be careful not to merely replace old fears long given up with new. Thank you, Martin.

1 year, 4 months ago on How Fear Manipulates You


I remember talking with a friend of mine at a local game shop once, when the subject of flood legends came up. He brought up the fact of the flooding of the Mediterranean as a possible explanation for myths of that sort, while I brought up that this didn't explain such myths in other parts of the world. 

I would have liked to at the time, but neither of us knew then that what happened to the Mediterranean was far, far too long ago to be remembered even through even the most accurate oral traditions to be entered in our mythology, considering the inaccuracies inherent in remembering and transmitting them. 

As you noted above, the places inhabited by early civilizations, like near large bodies of water such as rivers, experience flooding, and frequently in historical timescales, and this happens nearly everywhere where people depend on bodies of water for trade, transport and sustenance.

So given that, it's hardly surprising that such legends, or myths, would be so universal. Good post, Martin.

1 year, 5 months ago on The Great Flood – How Collective Memory Can Become Legend


I've thought about this from time to time myself. While I don't have any problem with beliefs that don't infringe on the rights and well-being of others, you can be quite sure that I'd have real problems with a beliefs of a hypothetical neighbor if he thought I was a warlock and needed to be burned, or who decided that my non-belief was somehow a threat to him and warranted retaliation for imagined, and imaginary, slights on his 'right to believe.' It's been my experience that individual beliefs are almost never in complete isolation.

1 year, 6 months ago on Respect for Superstition?