Piercing the Shroud

In light of the Scottish independence vote, a question may arise where the British Crown is in the New World Order hierarchy.

I think it is above the Bilderbergers but below space aliens.

Diversion: Rational Numbers

Rational numbers are "rational" for at least two reasons.

First, they can be represented as a ratio i / j, where i and j are integers. There is a finite proportion between these two numbers. No number is so crazily out of whack with the other that it crushes and dominates it utterly, that the distance between them is infinite.

Second, in a digital representation of a rational number there are patterns. Consider 1 / 3 = 0.333... = 0.(3) = 3 / 9 or 1 / 7 = 0.142857142857... = 0.(142857142857) = 142,857,142,857 / 999,999,999,999. The number in parentheses repeats forever. An irrational number's (such as π) decimal expansion has no patterns that persist to infinity.

People Are Not Meant to Be Crushed

Not even ISIS.

Did God Have a Wife?

A professor says that, according to recent archeological finds, there is

"increasing evidence" of Israelites worshipping several gods -- including one who may have been seen as Yahweh's "wife." ...

The idea that Iron Age Israelites were strict "monotheists" is perhaps wrong...

Yeah. Just as the similar idea that Information Age Americans are all strict monotheists.

Joshua Sasser asked how this affected the Bible. He felt that the article "was trying to discredit Scripture."

Here is my answer. It is obvious that there was religious diversity in the ancient world, just as there is today.

Most Americans are Christians but not everyone. Why expect that all Israelites adhered to Judaism? Or that none added various local pagan elements to Judaism? Or that they did not theologized wildly and incorrectly according to their own fancy?

If there is one thing on which the Bible is clear, it's the sinfulness of so many Israelites who turned away from the one true God time and time again.

I do not see how the presence of non-Jews in Israel affected the Old Testament any more (or any less) than the presence of non-Christians in the surrounding areas affected the New Testament.

Further: Christians consider the Bible to be the inerrant word of God. But only the Bible as it is now. I am no Bible scholar, but even I know that the Bible took centuries to take its modern form. Even today, the Catholic Bible differs from Protestant ones (e.g., Protestants consider some books, like Sirach, to be "deuterocanonical.")

Suppose that it is true that an early version of the Hebrew Bible in those saintly days of yore did contain references to God's wife, Asherah. It is claimed that Asherah was later edited out of the Bible by scribes with a monotheistic agenda.

Well, wonderful! People used to think the world was flat. There may have been books written by "reputable scientists" that used this assumption. Later on this view was overturned and such books, discredited. What's the big deal with the idea that the Old Testament at some point during its making contained an error that was later corrected?

God only needed to exercise sufficient providence to make sure the final version of the Bible was 100% correct. It was not essential to ensure that there were no errors of any kind in its drafts and other intermediate forms. But one attribute of God is His gracefulness and efficiency. Why do more than what is just sufficient? Sadducees believed one thing; Pharisees, another; etc.; let them fight, as long as the final product of their squabbles is flawless.

It is said that one does not want to know how laws and sausages are made. Why do we, the modern consumers of the Bible, need to know how the Bible was made, and the controversies surrounding its making? The Bible is true (rightly understood). Whether every single version of the Old Testament going back thousands of years was true is now irrelevant.

Multivitamins: Pro Tip

Buy two different bottles of vitamins (e.g., 1 & 2) and alternate them every day. Today take one, tomorrow the other, etc.

This way, if one MV is missing a useful ingredient, there is some likelihood that the other will have it, and your intake will be balanced.

At the same time, if one MV has a slight undesirable side effect (and who knows?), it will be less pronounced, because you are taking it once every two days, not every day.

Evil, 2

Can we say that the world is both cruel and beautiful, and beautiful not so much despite being cruel but often because of it?

That's the real aspect of beauty.

For its subjective aspect, check out what Achilles played by Brad Pitt says in the movie Troy.

Fred Reed on the Problem of Evil

Let me add some thoughts to the idea Fred expressed in "Lost in Space Without a Clue."

Nor is there support for the Christian notion of a loving God in the natural world. When a young giraffe is attacked by hyenas, disemboweled and bled until it collapses and the hyenas begin eating it while it is still alive, I for one cannot see much loving kindness in it. Just a giraffe, you say. It probably seems otherwise to giraffes, agreeable creatures who eat leaves.

But then, what choice do the hyenas have?

Question: What's the alternative? Would it be better if the giraffe lived to a ripe old age and died of a heart attack? I'm sure that is unpleasant, too. Death is death.

It seems that Fred would prefer a world without death or pain.

In the first place, such a world, call it ND, would be so different from our own that it would be hard to pronounce a definite judgment which world -- ND or ours -- would be "better."

For example, without death, there would probably be no births, else the world would become overcrowded rapidly.

There would be no balanced or evenly rotating "ecosystems."

There would be no evolution, such as it is.

There might not be much of an interaction between our immortal and impassable animals. What could they possibly want from one another?

As I am writing these down, our ND comes more and more to resemble a heaven for herbivores. A vast variety of giraffes and antelopes and bisons walking around, grazing mindlessly. But that's just crazy. Of what use is such a realm, this perfect zoo, to God?

Further, animals are of numerous uses to humans. "Heavenly" animals would probably be useless. Humans would then be hardly to blame for destroying these useless hordes to make space for cities, for example. Whatever is not valued is often an economic bad, like trash. We get rid of trash, and you can be sure as day we'd get rid of those "perfect animals," as well.

Even if they could be useful, the fact that in this peculiar heaven they would not procreate would mean that they would be destroyed without a trace quickly.

Chickens are not an endangered species, precisely because we kill and eat them in billions and they do reproduce.

Another possibility would be for God not to create animals altogether.

First of all, it stands to reason that our giraffe enjoyed a chance to live, however briefly. In its mind, it may have given praises to God for this despite the suffering it underwent. It was worth being born even if death came so quickly and painfully.

Second, the universe is sort of without "gaps." There is every manner of creature in it, from ants to angels, from prime matter to God. A world without animals would not be representative of God's abundant creativity; it would be an unfitting creation.

Third, there may be salvation for animals who are pets! Some near-death experiences feature animals, for example. Animals would not attain the beatific vision but they are capable of enjoying natural happiness. Cats and dogs may go to heaven after all. At the same time, no wild animal could possibly be "saved" in this manner, no matter how immortal. Pet are humanized animals, members of people's families. This is the only thing that might (I don't really know) qualify them for real heaven.

Thus, a world without animals would be seriously impoverished.

Unless Fred then can come up with a full-featured description of a better world than ours, I don't think his case against the existence of God from "animal suffering" can be sustained.

Islamic State, 2

Why the sudden support for US government's aggression among the American people, as polls show?

I speculate that ISIS is big enough, at least in the Americans' imaginations, and coherent enough to seem like an old-style national military.

It's less of abstract "terror" the government is pretending to fight; it's a somewhat more solid and concrete state-like enemy.

Americans are happy to have discovered a sufficiently definite entity now claimed to be the cause of the fear in their hearts to hate and to kill.

They are evil. Finally, we know where they live, more or less. We shall go abroad to destroy this monster.

End of story.

Obama vs. Islamic State

The ISIS's beheading of two innocent Americans is a tragedy.

Obama's intervention to "degrade" ISIS will kill thousands, maybe millions, of innocents, both directly and indirectly (such as from disease outbreaks and impoverishment after ruining the economies of the nearby Middle Eastern nations).

These, however, will just be statistics.

Trinity: Faith or Reason?

My view is that the fact that God is a Trinity can be discovered by reason alone, but this feat is so difficult as to be for all intents and purposes impossible to achieve.

However, once divinely revealed, the doctrine of the Trinity can be understood, made sense of, and expounded on at length by reason very nicely.

Might and Consent

From the foregoing we obtain a theory of "consent of the governed."

If I obey a certain law L because I think it good and socially virtuous, then I ipso facto extend consent to be governed by L. If, however, I despise L as harmful and unjust but, recognizing the reality of the government's power, obey solely out of servile fear of getting caught and punished for breaking it, then I thereby withdraw consent.

The power remains, yet might diminishes.

Various "sovereign citizens" fail to grasp this distinction: between might and power. Withdrawing personal consent chips away at might, but not immediately at power. The "sovereign citizens" are being foolish and imprudent challenging the state so brazenly.

Now the government does many things in our mixed economy. It is possible that I like the fact that the government does A, B, and C but not that it does X, Y, and Z. Yet it appears that I must consent or fail to consent to the whole of "government." The virtue of this solution is that it allows me to treat some laws as bad, and obey out of a desire not to get into trouble, and so fail to consent to them; and other laws as good and consider obeying them to be a moral imperative. In such a case consent is partial and properly granular.

Further, suppose I support the idea that local government should build city roads. The roads are financed by a car tax equal to $50 / year. I may think that the amount of the tax is too high. I am then essentially splitting the tax into two parts: I pay $20 according to morality and $30 to avoid getting punished: another aspect of granularity and proper distinctions.

It may be objected: Doesn't this prove too much, namely that consent can be withdrawn even if I have no means of changing the law? If the law is made by an absolute monarch, and I pay the tax purely for prudential reasons, then what is it to the monarch? What does he care how the money comes in? Well, a revolution is always possible, even if there is no institutional means of adjusting the law to suit the majority.

The problem with fear is that it is highly unpleasant and presents a conspicuous incentive to those afflicted with this emotion to change the law. Sufficient discontent among the populace can so undermine the might of the state that the state will lose its power, as well.

Power vs. Might

The US federal government has "power" over me. It can crush me into a bloody pulp. What to do? Well, I personally try to abide by its rules and regulations as best I can. I exercise prudence by paying my taxes, doing jury duty, etc.

However, while the feds elicit from me the requisite formal obeisance, and while they do have the power, they get from me no "ideological might," as Mises used this term, to help them dominate, because I do not recognize the US government as legitimate.

I do not recognize it as legitimate, because I consider almost all of those rules, regulations, and taxes to be both unjust and uneconomic; in other words, bad all around.

Here's the relevant passage:

... might is the power to direct other people's actions. He who is mighty, owes his might to an ideology. Only ideologies can convey to a man the power to influence other people's choices and conduct. One can become a leader only if one is supported by an ideology which makes other people tractable and accommodating. Might is thus not a physical and tangible thing, but a moral and spiritual phenomenon. A king's might rests upon the recognition of the monarchical ideology on the part of his subjects. (Human Action, 188)

Being "tractable and accommodating" is just not my thing.

I mean, I will pay up, when a gun is put to my head, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

If I could abolish the federal government and free all of you, my friends, then I would. Unfortunately, the majority of the people do not share my ideology. Hence, the state enjoys considerable legitimacy in their eyes. I alone am not enough to undermine the foundations of the US government. But my hope is that the people will eventually see the enormous benefits to all or almost all of laissez-faire in economics and near-anarchy in politics.

Big Tobacco Is Evil!

So, I was thinking of taking up smoking to protest against those annoying "Truth" commercials.

(That's what "Truth" with capital T comes to in our heathen times. Used to be, "Truth" had something to do with Christianity. Now it's about saving the world from the horrors of nicotine. I must give them their due, however: the folks behind Truth are fanatically devoted to their cause. Oh, how they hate smokers for being "impure.")

But then I came across this story:

The biggest of the big tobacco companies, RJ Reynolds, which also owns the fast-growing e-cig brand Vuse, is trying real hard to convince lawmakers to ban vaping.

Vapping is apparently the practice of refilling electronic cigarettes yourself, "with the e-liquid of your choice."

RJ Reynolds wants to clamp down on competition and prohibit -- through the government's Food and Drug Administration -- the consumers from choosing their own pleasures. If we avoid an outright ban, then we'll see vapping get "regulated" possibly out of existence or at best, such that to drive up its prices and diminish choice to such an extent that the vested interests at Big Tobacco can rest easy.

In short, Big Tobacco is evil not because it sells tobacco, and not because it's big -- there is nothing wrong with big companies -- but because it is using the government to disrupt commerce and harm society under obviously ridiculous pretenses.

In the end, it is the American people who are at fault for allowing their government to become so big that the market is so helplessly at the government's mercy. An innovation or improvement in consumer goods or methods of production can occur only if the bureaucrats in charge of assessing its impact on "public good" approve of it.

That's not free market, folks; that's fascism.

Science and Religion

It is not science that wars with religion, but rather magic wars against both.

I do not mean the magic in computer games and fantasy stories. I also exclude magic so obviously silly, like horoscopes, that people read it occasionally for entertainment. (I just read mine on Yahoo! for the first time in years. Fit me perfectly.)

I mean, taking the thing seriously.

Against science, magic is profoundly stupid. It does not work. It is superstition. Let's say there is a computer game in which the success or failure of some action depends on a random number generator. Players jokingly refer to this as requiring RNGesus to look down at you with favor. But being superstitious can make a person's life into a nightmare, because such a person imbues non-divine objects with out-of-proportion and arbitrary power to influence the course of events and ends up paying obeisance to them.

Against religion, magic is evil. This is because, made unhappy with subjecting his life to the whims of those non-divine things, man naturally rebels and tries to gain power over them. But God has laid down that power over nature is gained through science only. Who else to turn to for power outside this law other than to demons? But the only thing the demons care for and will accept in exchange for such illicit power is one's soul.

It is easy to see how practicing "magic arts" is a sin.

Oklahoma’s Satanists

They don't quite realize that the devil despises them, the Satanists, far more than he despises any Christian.

There is no loyalty or friendship among the evil ones.

Paul Copan Corrects Me

Paul suggests that I have confused scientism with reductionism.

Scientism, as per its dictionary definition, is "an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities)." (m-w.com)

Scientism rightly understood then is the practice of applying the methods of natural sciences (specifically physics, chemistry, and biology) to the study of man.

Paul has alerted me that scientism is not the same as reductionism.

There is truth to this charge, because -- as I understand it -- even if reductionism was false, and human nature were something sui generis (as we both agree it is) -- perhaps the methods of natural sciences could still work for the study of it.

Metaphysical dualism then does not logically entail methodological dualism.

In the quote in the post, Mises denies the reverse, as well, by qualifying his remark that "No bridge connects these two spheres," namely, the world-of-matter-and-energy and the world-of-subjective-experience, with "as far as we can see today." He admitted the possibility that sometime in the future such a bridge might be found, and the methods of natural science would become applicable to economics. For Mises, methodological dualism is a definite convenience, but not necessarily apodictically true.

I am so used to the rivalry between the Austrians and neoclassicals in economic methodology that I conflated the two dualisms. I thank Paul for bringing this to my attention, and I encourage him to post his full critique of my essay.

Little harm is done in the end, however. Let's ditch methodology and the term "scientism" (that does, admittedly, mean the need to change the title of the post) and focus on metaphysics.

Repost: Who Runs Bartertown?

This is one of my favorite movie quotes, and it describes politics, whether electoral or bureaucratic, perfectly.

Or one can invoke the great George Carlin:

I look at war a little bit differently. To me, war is a lot of prick-waving! OK? Simple thing. That's all it is. War is a whole lot of men standing out on a field, waving their pricks at one another.

Well, one might say, if only it stopped there.

Civil Associations: Dehomogenizing Law

All law, whether natural, positive, or that regulates the use by the public of government properties, is, in my scheme, to be enforced by the monopoly local government on whose territory the breaking of the law occurred. But each type of law is applied differently.

Natural law is universal regarding both persons and territory. Everyone is covered by it, wherever he finds himself. This is why getting natural law correct is of supreme importance to the entire world and why we need more research to build on The Ethics of Liberty.

Positive law is particular to persons but universal regarding territory. Only those who choose to be bound by a private positive law (in exchange for the ability to enforce the same law against other members of the relevant civil association) are required to obey it. But generally, they take this law with them everywhere they go.

Government properties law is universal to persons and particular regarding territory (as are all private property rules and regulations). If anyone, whoever he may be, is "on" a public street, then he must obey the "rules of the road" and such. As soon as he physically leaves a government-owned property, he is no longer bound by its rules.

Other Scientism, 2

By the way, Paul, epistemology is not knowing but the study of knowing, and ontology is not being but the study of being. When thusly understood, being is indeed prior to knowing, but epistemology is prior to ontology.

War and Tyranny, 2

Isn't it interesting how Hobbes tells us that wars can only be prevented by tyranny?

What a slick argument! And totally false. Both are prevented by the ideology of liberty and its offshoot, a laissez-faire capitalist social order.