Time Doesn’t Exist – and other Sophist nonsense

So I sawtime this on Facebook.

It’s very deep, of course.

The argument goes like this:  Time doesn’t exist because the units we use to measure it can’t be found in nature. (They can, actually, we may get to that later).

But of course, this is absurd.  The same logic could be used to argue that distance doesn’t exist because centimeters are a social construct, or that mass doesn’t exist because grams are a social construct.

The fact that 3:02 PM on a Tuesday is just a social construct doesn’t mean that time doesn’t exist.  This is an important distinction.  Failing to make the distinction leads to all sorts of logical folly.

In a conversation with Severian a while back, we noted that sophists started this whole deal (or more accurately, perhaps, popularized and formalized it) where we confuse the words we use for things for the things themselves.

I commented on the photo, basically saying what I just wrote above, adding “trust me, time exists.”

To which my friend replied, “we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.”

Now I know he’s intelligent enough to understand what I’m saying and just wasn’t following at the time and was not interested in trying, so I just dropped it.  But it was clear he was stuck on the language of the photo posted and saw what the truth in it is — and went with the conclusion.  I wasn’t arguing the facts stated in the post.  I was arguing with the two conclusions, that 1) Time doesn’t exist, and 2) that time as a social construct makes us slaves to it.  Time, that is.  The thing that doesn’t exist.

My immediate thought was “we’ll have to agree to disagree”.  By “we’ll” I assume he means “we will”, which means starting at some point in time and going forward.  In time.  Which doesn’t exist.

If time doesn’t exist, then not only is there no future, there is no now.  And if there is no “now”, there is no “is”.  So I, who apparently do not exist in the first place, just “proved” that nothing exists.  Which is a tall order if you parse that sentence at all.

I recall a story from Zen Buddhism that basically went like so:

The master asks the student some koan (I forget what it was), and days later the student comes back and proudly answers that nothing exists.  The master then slaps him across the face and asks, “then what was that?”

Confusing language for reality gets us in a lot of trouble, quickly, especially when we start substituting reality for language — which is the direct opposite of what language does.  Reality is reality, language is the abstract.  It doesn’t mean reality is abstract.

It gets us into lots of trouble in all sorts of subject areas.  And politicians, the main consumers of sophistry, use this to great advantage, every day.

As far as the “slave” thing goes … the social construct of 3:02 PM on a Tuesday was created so we, who are by nature social beasts, can better cooperate with each other. If anything, we are slaves to our nature.  But that should come as no surprise.  Everything is.

More specifically, we are really slaves to agreements – but agreements are necessary for social behavior whether it’s “you must do this by such and such time or I will have you flogged” or “if you do this by such and such time I will pay you … something.”  The nature of the first “agreement”, of course, is coercive and immoral.

But if time doesn’t exist, then morality certainly doesn’t exist.  We can find no physical evidence of it in nature, right?  So who cares?  I digress.

The same thing is being done with gender right now.  In nature, humans are male or female (there are a few biological aberrations, but everyone by and large is one or the other).  Now, there are certain personality traits we associate more with one gender or another, and we have taken to some standardized ways of expressing ourselves accordingly.

But what have our modern sophists done?  They have taken these expressions, this “language”, and substituted them back into the reality of gender, claiming that gender is just a social construct.  But no, it is the expressions that are social constructs.  Gender remains what it always has been.  But the sophists insist that it is not.

What this boils down to is a war on society.  The assumption is that social constructs are arbitrary and therefore worthless.

But “worth” is also a social construct.

So I guess I can officially opt out of this conversation.

*note: 3:02 PM on a Tuesday does, in fact, exist.  It just had no name.  The name is an abstract.  The point in time is a reality.

Paradigm Shift?

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “paradigm shift,” but probably haven’t read Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which introduced the concept.  I’m not going to claim that you need to run out and read it — I haven’t, and have no intention to — but “paradigm shift,” and its presentation, need a second look.

Most people think that “paradigm shift” just means “a new way of looking at things.”  And that’s what Kuhn wants you to think… when he’s speaking to laymen.  But doublespeak is the hoariest Stupid Professor Trick of them all, and so “paradigm shift” means something completely different when aimed at the anointed.  To “sociologists of science” &c, it’s an ironclad epistemological claim: You literally cannot think outside of your particular “paradigm.”  This thesis goes by various names — “frames,” “the Strong Programme [sic] in the Sociology of Science” — but it’s all the same thing: Knowledge itself is “socially constructed,” so you can only know what society, the media, the Patriarchy, capitalism, et cetera ad nauseam allow you to know.

Like all Postmodernism, the problem with this should be obvious.  It’s the Ishmael Effect — how did Thomas Kuhn escape his “paradigm,” to be able to tell us that nobody can think outside his paradigm?  Once again we find professors asserting for a fact that there’s no such thing as a fact.

And yet it’s not obvious.  In fact, Kuhn would say that noticing little factual discrepancies is how the “paradigm shift” happens in the first place — observations of celestial bodies don’t line up with Ptolemaic astronomy, for instance, and so along comes the Copernican revolution.  But, again, that’s just a PoMo speaking from both sides of his mouth — paradigms are incompatible, but somehow the one transforms into the other….

But now I’m wondering if he isn’t somehow right after all. See, for instance, this Cracked.com photomontage.  Specifically this

541398_v1and this:

541378_v1In both cases, the facts are well known, and easily accessible.  Re: more money, US per capita education spending is among the very highest in the world.  And there’s no correlation between spending increases and performance increases, as even the ultra-liberal HuffPo acknowledges.  And that’s with five seconds of googling.

With ten seconds’ worth of googling, we find that nope, not a single US state mandates teaching creationism in science class.  A handful require students to “critically analyze key aspects of evolutionary theory,” and two others allow (not require) “teachers and students to discuss scientific evidence critical of evolution.”  Hmmm….critically evaluating evidence and theories.  Gosh, that sounds like the very definition of the scientific method!

So maybe Kuhn is right after all.  Because these facts aren’t secret, they get brought up to liberals all the time.  You’ve probably done it yourself.  I know I have, and I bet your result was the same as mine — ad hom, then run away.  At the very best, you get a grudging acknowledgement that “some” studies “may have” said that… and five minutes later, they’re back griping about insufficient funding for public schools and those hicks in Tennessee mandating creationism in biology class.

They really can’t see past their paradigm.

On Tolerance, Disapproval, Respect, Acceptance, and Living Your Own Damned Life

So I got into a bit of a kerfuffle over this post on HKB.

Not exactly a kerfuffle, since the guy involved is an old friend, a really good guy — who cares about his gay friends and his straight ones as well.  He wasn’t being combative, really.  I think he just really missed my point. Which is not surprising given the way the argument’s been framed for a decade.

Here it is:

“It is not enough for the Left to live and let live. You must change your mind. You must not hold disfavored views. You must be the right sort of person. If you’re not, you will be muzzled.”

This is what has me worried.  Not dudes lying with dudes and chicks lying with chicks.

read more here.

To which I added this:

If you say anything that can possibly be construed as being “meh” on the practicality of gay marriage (which was, in practical terms, already “legal”*) and just not agreeing with the route taken by the activists, people will assume you hate gays and want to keep them from being happy.

So you can’t even have a proper discussion about it. The discussion was bypassed because, Shut Up, and the bullying worked on 5 justices.

*I’ve asked several people in the past several years just what is it, in real terms, that gays are not being allowed to do? Can they have sex with each other and not be thrown in jail? Can they have a ceremony that is to everyone there a real wedding ceremony? Can they call themselves “married”? Can their friends and anyone who is sympathetic with them call them married? Are they not being served in restaurants? Can they not spend the night in motels and hotels? Are they being turned away from hospitals? Just what, exactly, is “illegal” about it? That they can’t get a “license” to do these things? Why the hell do they need a license? (Why the hell do *I* need a license for that matter?)

Hell, they could apparently even force people to bake them cakes and take pictures of them if those bakers and photographers had moral objections to participating in the event.

No, it has *ALWAYS* been, for the activists at least, about *forced* acceptance — NOT tolerance. Tolerance is, “meh, I don’t care.” Acceptance is, “yes, this is good and right.” What they’ve wanted all along is to force everyone to say “yes, this is good and right” by force of law.

This is what is wrong with it. Has nothing to do with the Bible, or what kinds of “marriage” arrangements have existed in various cultures throughout history. It’s about government coercion.

This was the wrong way to do it. They already effectively had what they SAID they wanted, which is tolerance, and even acceptance by a good chunk of the population.

Just to make sure we’re clear on what I’m saying and what I’m not saying… read my actual post again. Is my problem with gay people, or with leftists? I think I’m pretty clear on that.

But because of how the entire argument has been successfully framed by the leftists, people cannot separate criticism of the court decision, or apprehension on what is to come without assuming they hate gay people, or at the very least don’t care about them.  If you express sympathy for the majority of Americans and frankly, people in the world that Marriage is between people of opposite sexes and with very few exceptions in history — always has been… when it’s been demanded that they toss their worldview out the window to accommodate this one … you’re just a hater.

It bugged me more this time because it was a friend and you want your friends to at least understand your position.  It was pretty clear we were talking about two different things.

In the discussion he asked if I knew any gay people.  I do.  I think the assumption is that I had some sort of misconception that they were all combative and out to destroy society.  Again, because of the assumptions injected by the Lakoffian language strategy of the left.

So as I lay there thinking (I do that a lot.  It’s not good for your sleep habits) trying to come up with a way to break out of the assumptions that come with the language constraints that have been successfully imposed on the subject, I suddenly (thankfully) came up with a perfect example that was right under my nose, literally. I hadn’t thought of it because I don’t dwell on it. I don’t feel victimized by it.

Here’s the deal.

In our eyes, my wife and I have been married for 23 years. In my parents’ eyes, due to their religious beliefs, we’re not married at all. You see, she is a divorcee, and there was no annulment. They wouldn’t come to our wedding. I knew they wouldn’t before I even invited them, but I invited them anyway, telling them I completely understood if they did not want to come.

Now, they still have us out to the house. We visit. We talk. We have a good time. They don’t hate me. They don’t hate her. Matter of fact they love her. Dad made it a point to pull me aside several months ago and tell me so.

But … if we were to spend the night there, we would be asked to sleep in separate beds. Because in their eyes, we are not married. I understand and respect their beliefs. I do not demand, much less ask that they accommodate us. Similarly, they wouldn’t come visit us in our home because of our living arrangement. They disapprove. They don’t condone it. I respect their beliefs. I do not feel ill treated. I do not feel humiliated. I do not feel “lesser”. That is what tolerance and respect looks like.

You see, disapproval is not the same thing as hate. Tolerance does not mean acceptance. In this story there is love, tolerance, disapproval, and respect. They are not mutually exclusive. The leftists have purposely, in a very Orwellian 1984-ish New Speak way (in the real world it would be more like Lakoffian way) — mainly through the media have shaped the way we even talks about this by choosing the language with which we talk about these things – and people have gotten very confused.  It’s no accident.

Keep in mind I myself am not sitting here saying gays should or shouldn’t be married, or that they’re not married. What I’m saying is that this will not be enough for the leftists. They are out to destroy, and this was just one issue they have usurped to help get that done.

There are gay leftists. And there are straight leftists who will wear the mantle to help destroy people they don’t like — namely the good people who love everyone but do believe that certain behavior is wrong, or that marriage is only between men and women. After all, it’s not exactly a radical view.

Tolerance is a two-way street. My prediction is that it will only go one way. Or else.

… and vanished in a puff of logic

donezalSo the Progressive deconstruction of America continues. The president of the Spokane, WA NAACP – Rachel Dolezai … has resigned. She’s genetically white as her two white parents (whom she has disowned) pointed out in the picture on the right. But I guess she’s “identified” as black.

Which raises some questions. If a white woman colors her face to look black, is she guilty of the dreaded “crime” of appearing in “black face” … or not — just because she “identifies” as black? If it’s ok to liberals to “identify” as any number of gender pronouns, why not “trans-racial”?

After all, they’re the ones who came up with the term “`white` Hispanic” when they needed to “white-ify” a guy who they so desperately wanted to be white after he had killed a black man — when he turned out to be half Hispanic. And liberal hero Elizabeth Warren listed herself as a minority (a Native American one) in professional directories that are commonly used by recruiters …

caitlynscatIf gender is a social construct, why can’t race be a social construct?  As a matter of fact, it largely is thanks to our progressive betters.  If you don’t behave or believe, socially, the way your particular race is “supposed” to according to the social construct progressives demand, then you’re not REALLY that race.  You’re an Uncle Tom.  An Oreo.  A “White Hispanic”.

If black conservatives such as Thomas Sowell or Herman Cain or Larry Elder or any of a host of others can be considered “not really black”, why can’t a white woman be considered “not really white”?

If you can pick your race or gender, even from 50+ invented genders that only you yourself may understand but still demand to be referred to as … why stop there?

If you can be trans-racial, can you be trans-national? Are illegal aliens coming here really “Americans” who just happened to be born in the wrong country? Can I sue you for discrimination if you won’t hire me and I just happen to identify as “black” or “Hispanic” or “Native American”?

contradictionsCan you keep me out of the women’s restroom?  Can you kick a woman out of a gym for complaining that a man is in the womens’ locker room?

My question is, have we finally reached a point where the progressive deconstruction of language and logic must finally collapse on itself?  Or will we continue to allow ourselves to be bullied into submission to the bizarre?

What are the rules?  Are there any rules?  If so, who gets to make them?  Courts? Bureaucracies?

We the People?  Naahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! 

mansplainingBefore you go accusing me of “whiteman-splaining“, I should let you know.  I’m really a genderless alien.  From a species that used to inhabit this planet before humans arrived and pushed us out.  I’ve always felt that way.

And I’m royalty.

On Atheism – UPDATED 2x

This is kind of a placeholder post — it’s the least I can do that isn’t a straight-up SNUL —  but Morgan had an update on something that I find perennially bothersome, so…

Y’all know that “atheism” is logically impossible, right?

I don’t mean that it’s logically necessary that there be a God — though I do actually maintain that.*  It’s the whole “proving a negative” thing.  For either sense of the word “believe,” you’re screwed.

1) If you “believe” in the nonexistence of God in the same way you believe in the nonexistence of aliens, then the best you can do — logically speaking — is agnosticism.  Yeah, the current “evidence” for their existence — abductions and probes and the like — is beyond flimsy.  And yeah, every single term in the Drake Equation is an ass-pull.  But if an actual flying saucer landed in your backyard, and little bald extraterrestrials with big eyes really started doing unspeakable things to your bottom, you’d have to believe.  Right?  Otherwise, you’re dealing with

2) The dogmatic sense of the word “believe.”  You’re saying that there is no possible evidence that could convince you.  No chain of reasoning is so tight, no standard of proof so precise, that you’d believe it.  Even as you’re strapped to the table, and the Grays are slugging it out with the Reptilians over who gets first crack at your sphincter, you’ll remain utterly, dogmatically certain that it’s a practical joke, or swamp gas, or a weather balloon.  Which is exactly the kind of thing Christofascist Godbags do, no?

What “atheists” really mean when they say they don’t believe in God is that they don’t like Christians.  Or, more typically, they really don’t like one particular Christian who plays a prominent role in their lives (usually Daddy).  And because the gap between “a logically necessary Creator” and “the Being described in the Bible” really does require a leap of faith to cross, wannabe-atheists take “lack of scientific proof for Jesus’s miracles” to mean “Christianity is false.”  Which entails that Daddy is full of crap, which is really all they wanted to assert in the first place.

But because every teenager in the history of ever has thought his or her father full of crap, and because agnosticism doesn’t get you any freethinking rebel street cred, they have to ramp all this up to “there is no God” to temporarily find themselves interesting.

And that’s sad.


*St. Thomas Aquinas’s famous five proofs for the existence of God are more than enough to show that a Creator was — and is– logically necessary.  You don’t need to plow through the Summa to get them, either.  Eward Feser sums them, and the most common objections to them, up very nicely in his Beginner’s Guide to Aquinas, and develops them at length in his The Last Superstition.  It’s true that Thomism isn’t easy, but a lot of that is due to a whole bunch of Scholastic technical vocabulary.  But sometimes technical vocabulary is necessary to describe how things actually are — if you’ll forgive a poor joke, life has a certain irreducible complexity, and you need the right words to describe it.  But nothing should be too daunting for the giant intellects of freethinking sophomores, and that’s doubly true of the liberal ones, who are far, far Smarter than the Angelic Doctor could ever have hoped to be. Go ahead — give it a whirl.  Show that medieval so-and-so who’s boss.

Update 1/1/2015: This started as a reply to Robert Mitchell Jr., but I thought it was widely-enough applicable to warrant inclusion above the fold. Mr. Mitchell says:

[religion] is a coherent belief system that is logical

To which I say: Exactamundo.  David Stove — an atheist — explains the problem I have with anti-religion* folks in a nutshell, in an essay called “What is Wrong with Our Thoughts?”  He starts by making fun of the famous (among theologians and early-medieval historians) argument that led to the Schism between the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Churches: the filioque controversy.  The question is: Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father alone (the Eastern position) or the Father and the Son?

Stove points out that this question can’t be solved by logic alone.  If it could, the medievals — who were monomanically focused on logic — would’ve solved it.  Whichever side of the question you choose, the logic will be impeccable.

Now, Stove says this is a prime example of thought gone bad, precisely because it’s so logical. If you find the statement “the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father alone” to be nonsense, good luck using syllogisms to prove it.  You have to attack the terms: “Holy Ghost,” “Father,” and “proceeds.”  And those, too, are impervious to logic.  They’re also impervious to empirical proof — which is why Stove thinks they’re nonsense — but formal logic has nothing to do with it.

But most people badly misuse the word “logical” — which was the point of my post.  This JapanYoshi guy, for instance, claims to have logically concluded that God doesn’t exist.  Which is impossible, in the same way it’s impossible for me to logically conclude that the Holy Ghost does exist, or that It proceeds from the Father alone.  Or, if we want to stick with the metaphor of the original post, the way it’s impossible to logically conclude that aliens don’t exist.

You can’t prove a negative.

28228-Thats-Unpossible-Ralph-wiggum-PcuIWhat this fellow wants to assert, I’m sure — and if I’m misreading you, buddy, feel free to come on back and correct me — is that it’s reasonable to conclude that God doesn’t exist, or that it’s likely God doesn’t exist, or that there is no evidence for the existence of God (for certain carefully selected values of “evidence”).  All of which are reasonable enough propositions; they’re the same ones we mean when we say aliens, unicorns, and/or honest Democrats “don’t exist.”  They’re just not logical, in the strict, formal sense I’m using.

Or, alternately (and I suspect this is the case), he’s trying to assert that the Being described in the Bible doesn’t exist.  Which, again, is a reasonable enough proposition — not even Aquinas, whose proofs for the existence of a Creator I find indisputable, would argue for the existence of the Christian God from formal logic.  But you can’t disprove Him with formal logic, either.  We simpy can’t know all the attributes of the Creator from pure reason (though we can know a surprisingly large number of them; again, see Feser’s Beginner’s Guide to Aquinas).

Which is why I put the asterisk behind “anti-religion” up there.  Every “atheist” I’ve ever met has only been concerned with his (and it’s always his) culture’s dominant religion.  It bothers Western atheists not a whit that Hindus (supposedly) believe in 330 million gods; they only ever want to talk about Jesus.  And this is a testable hypothesis — invite a Western atheist to schlep on down to the local mosque and have a heart to heart with the folks there about the nonexistence of Allah. In just the same way, the Indian “atheists” I’ve met don’t care about Jesus; they either want to bang on Hinduism or Islam (or both), depending on which part of the Subcontinent they came from and the vitriol of their personal politics.

Again, all of which is fine.  Disbelieve in Christianity all you want.  Make fun of Christians all you want.  Christianity has had thousands of defenders; if none of that changes your mind, then you’re not going to see the light on a blog with about four regular readers.  But don’t come in here talking about logic.  That dog won’t hunt.

[And if, by some miracle, you really do think God’s nonexistence is demonstrable by means of formal logic, and you’ve got a proof all worked out on paper, then by all means take it to your local university.  Or, heck, take it up with Edward Feser.  He’s got a blog; I’m sure he’d love to hear from you].

UPDATE 2x (1/3/2015):The Superficial “Logic” of Atheism

This started as a reply to Nate Winchester, but I also think it has above-the-fold applicability:

As Mr. Winchester points out, there sure are a lot of conventions, fanfic, etc. for the tv non-show “Off.”  Which, again, shows that this is not a logical position.  Logic stands or falls on its own.

All men are mortal;

Socrates is a man;

therefore Socrates is mortal

is true whether nobody defends it, or if we hold a giant “mortality of Socrates” rally in Wembley Stadium.  Similarly,

All men are mortal;

Socrates is not a man;

therefore Socrates is immortal

doesn’t hold, no matter if ditto (“Socrates” could be the name of my pet goldfish; and goldfish are most certainly mortal).

I think “atheists” get caught up on points like this, especially when expressed formally:

All A are B; A; therefore B

is universally valid, but

All A are B; ~A; therefore ~B

isn’t.  This is no insult to the intelligence of “atheists” — or, if it is, it’s an insult to my own intelligence, too, because I surely thought the second statement was valid back when I took Logic 101, and had to go to the prof’s office hours to get it explained to me.  It sure looks right there on the page — especially to the non-mathematically inclined like myself — but is easily shown to be false when you plug in real-world examples (e.g. my pet goldfish, “Socrates”).

Alternately, lots of “atheists” might think it’s believers who are getting caught up in this kind of thing (All men are mortal; Jesus was a man; therefore Jesus was mortal; therefore Christianity is illogical).

Which, again, is fine — Christianity is illogical.  That’s why it depends on faith.  If you want to maintain that belief in the divinity of Jesus is illogical, knock yourself out.  As I’ve said, I’ll even agree with you!  But that’s a far different thing from saying God does not logically exist (and you’ll note, just for the record, that “All men are mortal; Jesus was a man; therefore Jesus was mortal” isn’t sufficient to “prove” atheism, since this is a tenet of faith among Jews and Muslims).

There are two other superficially logical arguments for atheism that I can see, because I used to find them appealing.  The first goes something like this:

If God, who is all good, exists, there would be no evil in the world; evil exists; therefore God does not exist.

This is the famous problem of theodicy, and you don’t need a blog with four readers to run you through it.  But I will point out that if you use this argument, you’re putting yourself on the same kind of logical hook those stupid believers are on — if there’s no God, then Evil exists in the same way the speed of light exists, or gravity exists.  It’s just a physical constant; just part of the way the universe happens to be.  But if that’s the case, then it isn’t really Evil, is it?

The other one goes something like this:

All cultures have a notion of God, but might just be part of our wiring.  Our belief-in-God behavior is no different than a dog’s sniffing-other-dogs’-butts-behavior; belief in God is innate to human-ness the way butt-sniffing is innate to dog-ness.

Again, this is reasonable.  It might even be true.  But it’s only logical in the sense that it’s a tautology — we do what we do, because that’s what we do.  To go beyond this

we can only do what we are biologically capable of doing;

therefore God does not exist

is quite obviously a Gem (and not one of the prettier ones, either).  And if you try to weasel out of the tautology by saying “humans have a biological tendency to believe in God,” you’re succumbing to the Ishmael Effect — how did you, a human, escape humanity’s near-universal tendency to belief?  What makes you so special?

Obviously none of these prove the existence of God, let alone the Christian God (as I believe — heh heh — I’ve said about 3,000 times now).  Indeed, both the Gem and the Ishmael Effects, two of the most useful concepts I’ve ever come across, were developed by avowed atheist David Stove.  I’m sure he read the Thomistic arguments I find irrefutable; clearly they didn’t convince him.  And since Stove is obviously far smarter than me, it’s entirely possible that there is some IQ threshold above which it’s logically possible to prove a negative.

But if that’s the claim you’re making, champ, then you’re facing what I call The Fundamental Paradox of Internet Liberalism:

  • Conservatives are too dumb to understand liberal arguments;
  • If they were smart enough, they’d be liberals;
  • I’m arguing with them anyway

Compared to that, atheism is “logical” indeed!