Saturday, May 26, 2012

Microaggression - not

  • First, I do not buy into 'microaggression'. For me it sounds as
    if the term was coined by an academic who was in dire needs for a
    research grant. He wanted to spice-up the need for it, by inventing a
    new term.
  • Second, I have lived for the past 20 years in Japan and I share
    many of the experiences they are described by Debito and the readers.
    But my attitude towards this 'microaggressive' small talk is not one of
    anger or frustration. I even refuse to call it 'microaggression'. If I
    wanted to give it a name, I would call it 'microannoyance'.
  • Third, I have been bullied in school a fair amount. But this 'microaggression' is not aggression or bullying. It is just a kind of misunderstood and clumsy attempt of small talk.
    I have learned since my school days, and I am determined not going to be the
    victim anymore. Being the victim is terrible, but there is something I can do, especially in cases of being the victim in non-violent situations. So, there must be a solution how to get out of those clumsy small talk attempts. If I want to change the situation, I
    need to be active. There is no need to be fatalistic and passive in a
    situation in which I might become the 'victim'.

Now, how do I deal with those instances in which someone tries to start
one of those boring conversations by uttering for the millionth time the chopstick/natto/nihongo thingy?

  • I am always free to say 'Listen, I am sorry, but
    I am tired and I don't want to talk right now'
    . Actually, I have
    never done this, but in a taxi, this might be appropriate.
  • I switch to autopilot and let the conversation go for one or two
    minutes. My opponent will soon lose interest.

  • But actually the best and most interesting way is to try to spin it in a way to make it sound funny, but at the same time without insulting my opposite.

    • You are good at using chopsticks!

    • Well, when I came to Japan it
      was a good diet tool. But now, since I am so good at it
      ..... (I
      point at my belly)

    • (he laughts)

    • (I point at his belly)...maybe
      you should use knife and fork!

    • As a result, maybe I made a friend!
      (Of course, you guys, neverever use this for a lady!)

    • You are good at using

    • Yeah, but the problem is
      makes me drunk so quickly!

    • Why?

    • Because I keep drinking using
      my left hand while eating with my right. Try that with knife and fork!

    • Maybe I made a friend again!  
  •  I have a similarly engaging/funny story to tell about being able to eat natto. Wanna hear it? Then we need to meet and you ask me directly.
  • I turn the situation around, so that I am the one who is asking
    the questions. That makes me being in charge. This is actually quite fun and interesting.

    • Where are you from?

    • Well, you guess!

    •  Hmmmm, Sweden?

    • What makes you think so?

    • (he might think of a reason) hmmmmm....dunno!

    • Have you ever met a Swede? Have you ever
      been in Sweden?

    • As a result, I am in charge and can steer the conversation.
Finally, something interesting happens to me more and more often. When
I am in a group of people who know me and there is the occasional
stranger who starts this 'microannoyance', my colleagues jump in to
help me. They know that I have heard those questions a million times.
They were the ones who asked those questions, too, in the past! So,
they jump in to rescue me. They answer those questions for me! They are
the ones who introduce me to others!

Why do they do this? Because I had answered their questions in the past in a
rude and abrasive manner? No, because I answered them appropriately/kindly/with wit/etc.
They see that I am struggling with it, and they feel sympathetic!

That feels so good!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The God Debate (Harris vs. Craig) on "Is Good from God"?

The God Debate II: Harris vs. Craig

some preliminary thoughts about the debate between Dr. Harris, and Dr. Craig in April 2011
youtube video is here:

Dawkins has claimed, “As for religion … nobody wields a sharper bayonet than Sam Harris.”  and I was looking forward for a sharp debate, but I was disappointed.
Harris was not sharp at all.
For example, one hour into the debate, Harris says that God is cruel and unjust because he allows children to die (9 million children under the age of five per year to be exact).
I quote Harris verbatim:
"This is according to God's plan. Any God who would allow children by the millions to suffer and die in this way, and their parents to grieve in this way, either can do nothing to help them or doesn't care to. He is therefor either impotent or evil."

I was astonished that Craig did not reply to something so obviously wrong, but he decided to stay focused on the topic (Is Good from God?).
So, here is my rebuttal of Dr. Harris:

In a nut shell: it is not God's impotence or evilness that leads to the death of children, but man's pride, self-centeredness, greed, and laziness.
Harris did not say anything about the cause of death, and I am too lazy to research the exact numbers.
I would suggest the following numbers, which might be wrong, but by less than an order of magnitude:
30% die of malnutrition and no access to clean water
30% die of easily curable diseases
10% die of aids
10% die of neglect and domestic violence
10% die of complicated diseases that require highest grade medical care (e.g. congenital heart defects)
5% die of diseases and illnesses without a present cure, but a cure at hand (e.g. acute liver failure)
5% die of causes that are truly beyond hope and mankind is helpless

For which of those deaths is God responsible?
1. I am sure that if every tenth available dollar, yen and euro that floats around the world and is used to buy art for 100 million dollars for one painting (The Cry) would be used for improving infrastructure in developing countries, the first 30% could be saved. Why aren't more people giving money into humanitarian help? because they fear that their money will end up in shady channels of corrupt people. Can God being blamed for that?
2. Another tenth of uselessly horded money would be sufficient for the next 30%.
3. Why do kids die of aids? Because their parents gave it to them. I don't speculate on the reason (economic reason for women, sexual lust of men, etc), but for sure, God cannot be blamed for the bad economy in Africa and the lust of men.
4. The same here. Rage of parents, alcoholism, etc can have many reasons, but none of them is from God.
5. Building 100 top-notch hospitals and installing a helicopter network throughout those developing countries would solve most of this problem. One hospital and six helicopter hubs would cover an area of France to bring emergency top-notch help to everybody. It is prohibitively expensive, but we still have some money left. Who is stopping us? God? Or our own greed? Including my greed. I am not without guilt here!
6. If we would pour more money into medial research, many deadly illnesses could be cured. Artificial organs (grown from cell cultures), better mechanical hearts, etc need lots of money and time to develop. Why didn't we start 30 years ago? There is still money enough left over.

So, if mankind REALLY wanted to save those 9 million children under five that die every year, we could save most of them.
And I am sure that when God sees that we are doing all we can to save those children, I bet, that he would miraculously heal the remaining few percent of children with his supernatural power.

Dr. Harris, stop blaming God for something he is not responsible for.
For sure, you are in good company. Did not Adam blame God for the fall of man? "The woman YOU GAVE ME, made me eat the fruit...."
But please stop it. If you are a top-notch atheist thinker, please come up with better arguments.

It is humans who is responsible for human misery.
And I am a big part of it. I live in Japan, I enjoy my comfortable life. A life I did not do anything for. It was a gift from God. My wife, my children are a gift from God.
By the way, our oldest son died at age 10 of a congenital heart condition, I know what it means for a parent to grieve the death of a child.  I know that if better transplant techniques would have been developed that time, he might have survived. But I do not blame God for it.

Also, Dr. Harris needs to realize that there are countless Christian organizations and individuals who try their best to bring all this medical help into developing countries. They are not doing this because God is lazy, but because we humans are especially instructed by God to do so ("love your neighbor as yourself").

Interestingly, there is another group of children under five that is dying by the hundreds of thousands every year, but Dr. Harris did not mention them.
Every year hundreds of thousands of children are aborted.
This time it is not the neglect of selfish humans, but the active deeds of selfish humans that bring such a tragedy.
Also here, Christians are trying to help (finding adoption parents, giving aid to these pregnant woman, etc)

Even abortion was not a topic in the debate, during the question time (at 1h55min in the video) Sam Harris gave a very interesting statement that gives an interesting spin on abortion.
The atheist standpoint for an objective morality would be the maximization of well-being for the human race. That is the basis of an atheistic morality (please forgive me when I misrepresent here, but that was my understanding).
Dr Harris was asked if by killing people with miserable lives and in agony, wouldn't this increase the overall well-being of human kind.
Dr. Harris gives an interesting answer in which he, I quote the following, says:
Harris: killing someone eradicates suffering, but also nullifies all future happiness.

So, following the logic,  killing an embryo would eradicate the suffering of the mother and the child, but it would also deprive the unborn child of all future happiness.
Which is a pretty good argument against abortion. This argument is not dependent on the person-hood of the embryo (which is hotly debated), but on the future person-hood (on which we all agree. After we are born, we are a person).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

DDoS attacks on two sites - a striking difference in reaction

Recently there have been two DDos (distributed denial of service) attacks on two sites that host information about two totally different events.
The reaction on the Pharyngula blog was equally different.

The first attack was on a site about an atheist convention in Australia

and commented on here

The second attack was on a site about an Intelligent Design conference

The conference was harshly criticized here
but the blog was suspiciously silent on the DDoS attack.

How comes that the attackers on the atheist site were condemned by Pharyngula bloggers, and the attackers on the Christian site not?

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Shepherd Project, Colorado, ID conference and Anti-ID sentiments

It seems that some anarchistic elements in the USA are massively disturbing the registration for an Intelligent Design event at a church in Colorado. It seems that both, the church website as well as telephone registrations are made impossible.

More about the conference is here


The answers to these questions will be explored at the Legacy of Darwin Intelligent Design Conference on October 30-31 in Castle Rock, Colorado. Sponsored by Shepherd Project Ministries, this conference features several speakers from Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, including Dr. Stephen Meyer, author of The Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design; Dr. Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box and The Edge of Evolution; Dr. David Berlinski, author of The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions; and Dr. John G. West, author of Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science.

More on the cyber attack

More on the phone attack:

Now, another example of hate speech

I am afraid that this is just the beginning.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why is there Suffering - a reply to Peter Singer

On May 19, 2008, the Japan Times published an article by Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and outspoken atheist. He is a proponent of abortion and euthanasia.

I have a couple of questions about his reasoning and I am quite astonished about his lack of scriptural knowledge. If we were to discuss God and religion seriously, he need to better know the foundations of religion as revealed in sacred texts. When criticizing Christians, he better know the Bible.

For example Singer writes “some Christians say that we have all inherited the original sin committed by Eve, who defied God's decree against eating from the tree of knowledge. This is a triply repellent idea, for it implies that knowledge is bad, that disobeying God's will is the greatest sin of all, and that children inherit the sins of their ancestors and may justly be punished for them.”.

This is not a triply repellent idea, but shows Singer’s triple ignorance.
1. it is not that knowledge is bad. It was bad for Eve (and Adam) to disobey. For a believer, who acknowledges that God created the universe, and furthermore created a good universe (Genesis 1), it is not bad to investigate nature. Just the opposite. It fills the believing investigators with joy and awe to see the skillful creator’s hand in nature. Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians, in chapter 1: “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Paul writes about spiritual wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge of God is clearly distinct from faith. And isn’t all knowledge we have ‘spiritual’? Our senses and perceptions are processed by the brain before we ‘understand’ it. So every knowledge we get is ‘spiritual’.
Again Paul, in the letter to the Romans, talks about knowledge and nature: ”From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse. 21They knew God but did not praise and thank him for being God. Instead, their thoughts were pointless, and their misguided minds were plunged into darkness. 22While claiming to be wise, they became fools.”. Here again, it is not knowledge that is bad, but that humans do not acknowledge God for what He is.

2. It indeed is the greatest sin to disobey God. Exactly. What is so repellent about it? If God is almighty, all-good, all-wise, omnipotent, omnipresent, an eternal being, it should be clear that obeying Him is in the best for us. We were created to have fellowship with God. Satan told Eve that by eating this fruit, she would become like God. So the sin she committed was two-fold. One, she disobeyed God’s command, fully knowing that her actions would lead to death, and two, she wanted to become like her creator, that means she wanted to live a life without God, while she would be her own god. Again I ask Professor Singer: what is so repellent about it? It looks logic to me.

3. Isn’t it one of the big tenets of evolution that offspring inherit their traits from their parents? Further, do not parents imprint on their children their own behavior? Our life is determined by many things, two of the biggest factors are directly correlated to our parents. Evolutionary biology trumpets out that monkeys and birds learn some techniques of food gathering from their parents. Then let those scientists not complain that disobedience is also inherited. Adam and Eve disobeyed God. The one God they were seeing and who was walking with them in the evening breeze of paradise. Once thrown out of paradise, what makes you hope, Professor Singer, that their offspring, who now do not see God anymore, will be more obedient?

Singer continues to show his ignorance when saying that “Even if we accept all this [that there is inherited sin], the problem remains unresolved. For animals also suffer from floods, fires and droughts, and since they are not descended from Adam and Eve, they cannot have inherited original sin.”
He forgets that Adam and Eve’s sin threw the whole creation off balance. The ground was cursed after The Fall. Genesis 3, 14 says that the serpent is more cursed that other cattle. Verse 17 speaks of the ground being cursed. So the whole creation bears the effects of that original sin.

Singer continues to build and burn straw men. He quotes D’Sousa, a conservative commentator he debated lately, who says that “since God gave us life, we are not in a position to complain if our life is not perfect”. Singer builds a strawman out of it by extrapolating that thus we have no right to condemn an expecting mother to use drugs during pregnancy. He misses the point. The mother is not the ultimate source of giving life to her child. She is the vessel that God uses to bring fourth life, which He created. No willpower of a woman is enough to become pregnant. No medical technique is powerful enough to fertilize any infertile women.

That said, all the theological theoretizing and trains of thought about suffering come to a screetching halt when one is faced with the reality of suffering childrenas Singer writes:
“But infants and small children are just as likely to suffer and die in natural disasters as adults, and it seems impossible that they could deserve to suffer and die.”
Here Singer is right. It seems impossible that small children deserve to die. And I know that first hand. In 2000 I saw my own ten-year-old son die from the effects of his congenital heart defect. The ailing heart could not support his body anymore and one after another, his internal organs stopped working over the course of a few days: lungs, kidney, and liver. He died after being in a coma for two days and both my wife and I were at his side when his heart stopped beating. Since he was born, my wife and I took him as what he was: a gift from God. He was raised in a Christian home, he loved Sunday service, he invited his teacher and classmates to church events. He prayed as if he knew that God would listen to him – and He did. If one boy did not deserve to die, it was he. But I am convinced that God keeps His promise and that Daniel is in heaven now. With the same conviction, I know that God is a just and merciful God, who saves all those children who die before they can make any decision about their faith. “Let the children come to me” is a famous quote of Jesus. He said this here on earth, but it is eternally true. Also now, Jesus lets the children come to him. With such a knowledge, what then is indeed the short suffering here on earth compared to the riches in heaven?

Later on in the text, Singer adds a personal musing that “(Some say that we need to have some suffering to appreciate what it is like to be happy. Maybe, but we surely don't need as much as we have.)”
This is just his personal opinion. He acknowledges that suffering has some merits. He forgot the biggest: suffering and personal hardship can bring people closer to God. And that is what counts here in life. Adam and Eve chose to be disobey God. Now God uses suffering to bring their descendants back to Him. If there were any other less painful way, He would do otherwise.

Finally, did Singer realize that God suffers, too? He says he’s debating Christians, so it should not have skipped his attention that books over books have been written about Christ’s suffering for us. Jesus Christ, the perfect man in whom even Pilate could find no fault, suffered dearly on the cross. Jesus died a horrible death. Did he need to? No - He is God. But He chose to.
Humans suffer, because they are far from God. God suffers so He can be near to us.
Monday, May 19, 2008

If there is a god, then why is there suffering?


PRINCETON, New Jersey — Do we live in a world that was created by a god who is all-powerful, all-knowing and all good?

Monday, April 21, 2008

When a biologist talks about chemistry

The famous Miller Urey experiment

When browsing websites related to the Expelled movie, I came across the following critique of PZ Myers of Caroline Crocker, a teacher who claims to have been ‘expelled’ from her university, because she taught Intelligent Design. Myers replies here to an article in the journal Nature describing her ordeal.

Nature article:
Crocker said that subsequent research had shown that chemicals used in the experiment [Miller's] did not exist on Earth 4 billion years ago. "The experiment is irrelevant, but you still find it in your books," she said.

PZ Myers:
This is not true; the issue is more complex than she lets on. Our understanding of the nature of the atmosphere has changed since Urey and Miller, but the experiment still stands as valid and interesting—it shows that complex chemical precursors to life can arise without intelligent guidance. Similar experiments have been done with different atmospheres, with similar results.

My comment to that:
Sure, „complex“ molecules can form under simulated early earth conditions. I don’t know which chemicals Myers considers ‚complex’, but molecules formed in the Miller Urey experiment are various amino acids, nucleo bases, sugars, etc. They are formed because thermodynamics and the reaction condition favour the reaction from ‚simple’ carbon dioxide and ammonia to ‚complex’ alanine, for example. But what Myers does not take into account ist hat the same thermodynamic laws forbid the formation of REALLY complex molecules such as DNA or polypeptides. There is not a single report that functional polymers have been formed under Miller Urey conditions. And those experiments do require intelligence (of the scientist planning and carrying out the experiment).