Shikidim, Shikidim

I'm off for a working holiday in Turkey. Provisionally a week or so, but flexible durationwise. Internet access probably expensive, so I'll note and/or photograph anything vaguely interesting, and post it when I get back.

The parents are convinced everything "east" is wall-to-wall suicide bombers and fanatical mullahs. I'm more concerned about drunken british tourists and obnoxious american ones.

So, a frantic haze of small preparations and bureaucratic nonsense, then some hours of waiting with nothing to do, then a series of unpleasant slow journeys to the coach station, the airport, the departure lounge, and the destination country main airport, where you sit for some more hours with nothing to do. Then another unpleasant flight to the destination city airport ... and the hotel. Where you sleep it all off for 12 hours. The trouble with going places is ... you have to travel to get there.

Be seeing you.

Passé

I'm changing my passwords. On the grounds that, while leetspeek (or l33tsp34k) transcriptions of lines from comic books published 20 years ago are hard to guess, it's not so easy to think up new ones.

So, how to think up new passwords? How to think up phrases that are easy to memorise by mnemonics, but hard to crack using either brute force, or a dictionary, or psychology? Why not write a little program to randomly generate syntactically possible phrases, plus some numerals, and select whatever output appeals to your twisted soul?

Phrases something like these....

Verb Adjective Noun:
ProveDevelopmentalLanguage98
TolerateManagingBulk25
EnhanceMeanAccent53
SwimShallowEquivalent05
ImagineNorthernPitcher37
OptGreekBear07
PlantDisappointedEquity59
StareDiplomaticReform72
ReinforceDistantNoon56
ResembleSeriousOfficer18
HighlightContinuedChart43
RubMutualServant40
JustifyAloneMarker20
RubLongRush62
SeizeVoluntaryLikelihood56
CiteNakedDetermination81
GuardMoralCheese36
CatchGrossGrin72
ConfirmProtectiveChief68
HeadCorporateSelf-Esteem60
ImposeIllegalBottle88
StressEconomicDiamond68
SolveLightPeople23
PokeGeneralPepper05
LendTroubledSignal23
SwingLeftHuman75
RequestEarlyBreeze89
RelieveWideBible47
DoubtCompetitiveVisit90
BackDevelopingSalary13
MixCreativeHay28
EstablishOverwhelmingStroke52
MotivateDumbImmigrant29
ObtainNonprofitCorridor15
DipKeySignal38
CreditAggressiveLeague00
AnalyzePracticalConservative07
RangePersonalPiece86
WhisperLegitimateClothes31
SuggestChristianElectricity83
SpreadSovietRequirement99
AppealBitterStatue71
LendEconomicThought53
DriveOngoingCompromise15
FaceSeniorSeat21
CallGermanIcon52
ActLightRepublican75
MightKeyPillow45
IgnoreHigh-TechSupply54
GrantPhilosophicalPoll39
RateUniversalDifference40
TestifyRearCap65
SignFasterBarn25
AverageContinuousFreedom51
HookRemarkableNovel05
EvolveProudStadium56
ConfessBrutalSoup36
TapMaleEntrepreneur24
RelieveVeryTear42
FloatStrictDisorder65
ScareUrbanStar69
MissJuniorChild34
AvoidElaborateCloset83
StudyMinimalRevolution58
CiteKoreanLion81
EarnExtraWrist13
SealCompleteMr07
HurryHungryDawn63
IncorporatePrettyFace00
ProvideGermanExplosion61
SeekCriminalOperation93
InterruptAddedSpray27
PublishTalentedScent83
AllowIllegalSelf28
WaitStrikingInstinct92
AssumeChristianBrand53
ExhibitThickCart45
OccupyExtensiveUse32
FeelProudHit00
BegUniqueMoment12
ReactBritishGuy72
FillOrganizationalEntrance80
ComplainSteepFool60
IssueDetailedFruit53
CrashFascinatingTerrain93
StandNeatEngineering21
ImpressTallCurriculum96
ExhibitJewishWork78
PayRadicalConviction74
ForceHandsomeDrop53
SustainReligiousBureau98
ReturnSustainableTransit97
ApplySuitableFrontier01
LowerSignificantHip33
ModifySexyCompromise94
ManipulateOlympicConsultant14
OptRunningSin92
ExperienceBlackHeat54
HandleRemarkableKnowledge43
InvestigateRetiredNight76

Noun Preposition Adjective Noun:
AgeBeyondAdministrativeNet93
DessertExceptMobileSalad42
ScaleSinceBottomFame84
CancerThroughSmoothReading16
CountryPriorTerroristHero77
ShadeAlongsideNationalClock42
NotebookPerWealthyCattle46
EnergyChargeWhiteIdentity77
OfferBeneathAdequateSympathy14
AttractionVsEasyAffair21
ImpulseOfInstitutionalSkirt06
CeilingThanSafeSight24
CliffAfterFrozenSex76
SelectionAboveCostlyBath03
RatioBesidesBoringIndependence86
LunchAdditionExpectedBucket06
ExecutionBesidePreviousDecade18
MandateFromVisualPage59
BreakAcrossAcceptableGrave68
FabricChargeUnlikeRepresentative96
IconTopOkAdvertising96
WisdomBecauseSpecialShip26
MsDependingAgriculturalComfort42
ProgramPerUncomfortableChampionship26
CapabilitySuchAloneInvention12
SkiWithoutIndustrialBan21
SaltPriorNuclearInnovation93
IronConcerningResponsibleIslam44
TownOpposedCruelShade38
OutputUnderContemporaryGirl01
YearAboveTechnicalBirthday30
EditorBySuspiciousPattern50
RegulatorOpposedNonprofitMinistry43
ArtNextCivilianPosition93
ThumbOffWarmTactic30
ReportOtherFrequentShopping35
ExpenseButMaximumChallenge71
SiteAheadElaborateHumanity60
CitizenIntoOrganicRepair63
TopicTowardFiercePerformer48
LemonUnderImprovedFemale52
OutletOutsideSevereHorse91
BallBelowSharpGoal45
CombatAtBlackShadow33
CatholicAcrossVastNeck45
SoutheastTowardExtremeCommunity43
StandingTillPrivateFront80
TeacherBecauseFlatMissile06
EgoBeneathSuddenSlice32
YieldWorthVerbalTerm21
JudgeDependingSurroundingSoul10
PorkAlongQuietPlanning94
AccomplishmentBesidesAestheticBath91
TwinUntilResponsibleList10
PillowAsGrandString33
UtilityApartOfficialHonor31
ConstraintOutsideFavoriteSuite21
PrideBehindBrilliantOffense79
RangeTopRightPile23
PersonTopNervousRival96
HouseholdBetweenDevastatingDefinition28
LoyaltyVersusTraditionalMrs30
ArrivalConcerningProQuarterback84
ExportTowardRemainingNature17
ExposureFavorMutualAim19
CollegeOverBoldCoup53
ForumUnderIndianPartner69
BowUnlikeProfessionalCounter51
WireAtFierceFoot83
DataBetweenBoringPiece73
IronPerGeneralTag90
PartnershipLikeSmoothIndication40
CitizenshipVsDutchVegetable02
SeaInsteadWoodenAct36
RhythmNearFantasticBrother07
RegulatorSpiteIntimateBaby15
TouchOtherRareSalary40
EssayAlongSecretDuck10
FranchiseTowardsDevastatingPlot23
SpecialtyBetweenCanadianDancing04
PrincipalOutAggressivePorch34
SatisfactionAlongNonprofitShower93
WishChargeEnvironmentalDeveloper16
RealmViaLaterYield56
RidgeBelowRelativeChild73
MotiveInDifficultBalloon73
JumpAfterMassCritic95
PortSinceChemicalShelter29
CrashDueEncouragingExpansion54
DiscBehalfJudicialLaunch56
DiamondWithinConcernedCheese73
HelpOfWeakObligation23
ToyDespiteInnerMail61
PursuitFavorIdenticalProductivity55
PrisonSpiteWealthyBaseball11
ActivityTermsFirmPolice26
CrimeAlongsideAsianDrinking12
LemonSubjectRationalProject72
EntryRegardRubberSink20
ScaleAlongsideDominantWalking20

Verb Noun Adverb:
ComplyColleagueTogether39
SpitLibertyThereby98
ShopStartInitially15
BakeCreativitySeverely85
RecognizeCreativityReportedly03
ProtestCompanyMerely32
LocateTestingLargely29
DivideExpertForth95
InvolvePanicHence54
WanderPhysicsStill41
QuoteSelf-EsteemPerhaps00
FosterDiscPublic43
SmellBarrelHappily73
ConfessEmployeeUnder50
SeizeCivilianDeeply41
IssueSensorNaturally80
SatisfyKitThrough87
ManagePaintEither20
HeadInfrastructureAnymore21
HarmPersonalityNormally14
RegulateStrengthAutomatically31
SoakPollAnywhere91
PersistTowerPrecisely10
CondemnInsuranceOverall95
ProcessBearOnline01
ConvinceScriptAbove71
RefuseMeasurementLargely93
ThankTunnelBoth11
DressStudyAway64
MissAdolescentHappily66
GrinSoccerMostly36
ExaminePieceInstantly59
LocatePineSeriously34
LeavePurposeKind28
DeclareMotiveOutside95
BlendMagicDramatically06
AttachSatelliteUnder13
SaveGraduationInside49
DipPaintAllegedly29
PlanGraduationOkay50
RiskBossNearly68
MeetCraftCorrectly97
AvoidWayWhy37
SmellStreetNewly33
ScareDepartureAlone99
ShareRoutineHowever07
SurviveMechanicOnce70
EncounterAllegationForth91
RentGoatLikely04
AttendLaborWherever95
WrapResolutionSudden41
ShoutTrashDeeply31
CrowdTaxAny04
ResolveMarkerCourse93
PeerFloorTherefore36
ExpandInquirySignificantly63
WarnMeasurementRather36
WinFortuneIe00
RefuseGravityHard56
ConstituteCoverageBehind41
ContendElectionSomewhere33
LiftParticipantWorldwide99
LocatePriceClosely11
FallAdClosely24
GovernDoorMoreover93
FinishOneOnly50
FeedAccountabilityDifferently57
ClimbGuiltAcross51
ExpandArrowLikewise20
IntendRhetoricSurprisingly47
GrabReformThrough43
ScoreRespectEnough70
CauseWillingnessStill72
DressIndexTypically45
GrowFlightHighly80
IssueTomatoNeither54
LieLuckBeyond40
IncorporateBoothSafely48
TwistGymNearly49
CallZonePresumably27
WorryGhostPolitically12
AttractRootTwice99
SliceSupportLittle58
DetermineCigaretteObviously44
WarnBlastRecently16
TwistBiteWay34
SighBowlEither87
ForgiveSwitchHighly23
AdvocateAcceptanceStrongly36
BroadcastDropUnder27
RaceMonitorConsistently87
PileCategoryLater19
BornSectionAcross78
ExtendPredatorThere73
DamageTankSimply19
FishIntelligenceMoreover63
OperatePatronAhead65
RidePopulationThrough33
FitBusinessmanOccasionally60
CanGuidanceHalfway39

I, Slamming

If you want to check you understand something, explain it to an imaginary child. Or, the next best thing, explain it to someone who's determined to not understand because their fragile ego can't cope with doing so. Or as they're colloquially known, an "ordinary person".

Thanks to the dark miracle of social media, we have an endless supply of such people to check our understanding on. Here's one exchange between some idiots ordinary people and "Stefan Travis" - a facebook alias I adopted, and then got stuck with.


Stefan Travis: [Sam] Harris makes a very fundamental mistake [in his analysis of ISIS]: He takes jihadists at their word. He wouldn't assume nazi-supporting catholics of the 1930s could describe their own historical-psychological situation accurately. He wouldn't uncritically accept the sophisms of Burma's suicide-bombing Buddhists. But he accepts the self-delusions of muslim fanatics as accurate. This is a bizarre blindspot.

Toza: the jihadis are doing as they say and not shying from it.

Stefan Travis: The quran forbids rape, but that doesn't seem to stop ISIS members doing it. And not just doing it, but systematically, tactically using it as an intimidation method.

The quran forbids suicide, but suicide bombers find a way around the injunction...by redefining it as sacrifice, even though when the quran speaks of sacrifice, it's never of oneself, and never of humans.

The quran forbids lending money at interest. But ISIS has a financial wing that does just that.

Toza: There is no moderate Islam only Islam.

Stefan Travis: Was Maoism a result of confucionism? Obviously not. Did Mao use confucionism to justify what he did? Obviously yes.

Was Mussolini a fascist because he was catholic? No. Did he use religion as an excuse when it suited him? Yes.

Does Buddhism support pacifism? In Tibet, yes, in Burma, no. So are the scriptures different in different countries? No, the situation is.

Toza: between what jihadists and moderates think. There is an overwhelmingly far more support for sharia than there is for non sharia.

Stefan Travis: You don't actually know what "sharia" is.

You think it's "the extreme right wing of islamic law interpretation" - basically "theocracy". It just means "system of rules", and there are as many interpretations of it as there are of laws anywhere.

Toza: in the pew research data, sharia was the dominant ideology expressed overwhelmingly by the majority of Muslims.

Stefan Travis: You're trying to redefine words to fit your agenda.

Perhaps it would be useful to have a word for what you describe, but calling it "sharia" makes as much sense as calling all tools "weapons".

Crazy Joe Devola: the brutal actions done by ISIS are well justified in theology.

Stefan Travis: All actions done by all religious groups are well justified in theology. That's what theology is for.

Crazy Joe Devola: Rape, according to Mohammed and ISIS, doesn't apply within marriage or a master-slave relationship.

Stefan Travis: The same is true of christianity and judaism - according the their scriptures. According to american fundamentalism, a man can't rape his wife, because it doesn't count as rape, because she's his property.

So why do most christians reject that interpretation? Obviously the difference isn't scriptural.

Crazy Joe Devola: suicide bombing is a western term for what is considered a martyr in Islam.

Stefan Travis: No. Sayyid Qutb found a loophole in the quranic suicide prohibition, using the notion of martyrdom. You're confusing a deliberate, strained misinterpretation with the natural reading of the text.

Crazy Joe Devola: Most western apologists don't really know that much about Islamic scripture and exegesis, or they believe it's just another religion like Christianity.

Stefan Travis: Islam is a christian heresy. Just as christianity is a jewish heresy.

Crazy Joe Devola: You won't watch the videos posted because Islam is a religion of peace and you won't even consider you are wrong.

Stefan Travis: There is no such thing as a religion of peace, war, or mashed potato. Religion is politics in disguise, which is why it changes when politics does.

Toza: If christians were beheading homosexuals ... I'd call them out too. But the simple truth is, they aren't.

Stefan Travis: So ask yourself why they aren't, when their scripture tells them to. Then ask yourself why they eat pork, when scripture tells them not to.

Then ask yourself why quranic scriptures which were ignored until the 1950s, were suddenly obeyed enthusiasically.

Crazy Joe Devola: Muslims must consider the Quran not merely inspired, but the perfect rendition of the final word from God to mankind.

Stefan Travis: Christians believe the same of their scriptures. Every religion with scriptures believes them to be infallible and final. Every religion with a notion of hell appoints it for non-members.

Crazy Joe Devola: why does Islam get a pass from you?

Stefan Travis: Every set of scriptural injunctions, if taken literally and obeyed, would lead to mass slaughter and supremacy.

So, why are you giving Buddhism a free pass? Why are you giving Bahai a free pass? Why are you giving Shintoism a free pass?

Answer: Because the arab world is currently dangerous, and like everywhere else it uses its superstitions as an excuse.

Toza: [Islam is] the most dangerous obstacle in the world currently.

Stefan Travis: Islam is the Fox News of the east. It's a tool used by the powerful to keep the masses distracted and confused, outraged and fearful of a nubulous, shifting miasma of protean imaginary threats.

So, how many Americans are motivated by Fox News to blow up abortion clinics? A very few, and it's always isolated nutcases.

How many are motivated to bloviate and fantasise about blowing up abortion clinics, but never do it? Millions.

Now, how many are actually organised into armies to "take back america" and "kill all the gaymarried lib'rals"?

None.

You are confusing a tool of ideological sheepherding with the political movement which creates it. You're confusing the smoke for the fire.

Crazy Joe Devola: Christians readily accept the Bible to be written by human beings

Stefan Travis: They still want their scripture inerrant, so they claim god "inspired" the writers.

Crazy Joe Devola: The Quran is supposed to be a copy of a book that is in heaven and that was already written at the time of creation.

Stefan Travis: No. The tradition is that Gabriel whispered in Mohammed's ear, and Mohammed paraphrased what he heard, and others wrote some of it down, only to lose about two thirds of the writings.

The quran does indeed refer to itself as both a book and a recitation - before it was collated as either. Just another plot hole.

Crazy Joe Devola: Islam more than any other faith lends itself to literalism.

Stefan Travis: So a literal reading leads to a literal reading. But a non-literal one doesn't.

Crazy Joe Devola: Christians ... do not believe the same thing about their scriptures.

Stefan Travis: You mean, christians in secular cultures water down their conception of christianity. And those in religious cultures don't.

Crazy Joe Devola: Criticizing Buddhism on par with Islam would be like going to the doctor with a stake through your chest and complaining about a stubbed toe. 

Stefan Travis: Look up the buddhist verson of hell. Did you even know there was one? It's much worse than the christian or muslim one.

Toza: A dystopian fantasy of conspiracy theory and I'm right.

Stefan Travis: Do you think it's a conspiracy theory to say the powerful tell lies to keep their power?

Crazy Joe Devola: no Muslim believes the Quran to have been touched by man. The umm al-kitab (mother of books) is written in heaven and has been perfectly compiled to today's Quran, after first being revealed to Mo through an arch angel. That notion alone is why Islam is much more doctrinaire and ultimately more dangerous than other religions.

Stefan Travis: So christians are saying "Our book is infallible", and muslims are saying "Our book is even more infallible".

Crazy Joe Devola: different religions contain different values.

Stefan Travis: Religions serve to validate the values of whoever believes in them at the time.

Do christians have the same values now as 1000 years ago? Why not? Now ask the same questions about muslims.

Crazy Joe Devola: Why does Islam fight so hard against secularism, why does Christianity allow the luxury of being watered down.

Stefan Travis: Christianity lost the battle. Islam hasn't yet. Did you think christians willingly let their doctrines be watered down?

Crazy Joe Devola: Tibetan Buddhism [is peaceful].

Stefan Travis: [It] teaches absolute obedience and death to those who don't obey.

Crazy Joe Devola: Rohinga Muslims [in Burma] are not being attacked by Buddhist because of their god belief alone.

Very good. They're being attacked for political reasons, clothed in religious sophism. You have just confirmed my main point. Congratulations.

Crazy Joe Devola: This gem is taken right out of the Reza Aslan playbook and doesn't stand a minutes' scrutiny.

Stefan Travis: His line is: "Terrorists aren't the real muslims". Which means he thinks there is such a thing as "real" islam. Which is the opposite of what I said.

Crazy Joe Devola: some religions are worse than others.

Stefan Travis: No. All religions are incoherent, and all can be used to justify the best and the worst of human behavior.

That islam is currently used to justify the worst doesn't make it worse, any more than a hammer currently used to commit a murder is any more dangerous than one left on the shelf.

Crazy Joe Devola: this religion/politic dichotomy doesn't exist in Islam.

Stefan Travis: So islam is wrong. Exactly as wrong as every other religion, on this point.

Crazy Joe Devola: There are fewer Polynesian animists than Jews or Muslims that circumcise their children.

Stefan Travis: Most christians don't circumcise their children, even though their bible mandates it. A lot of cultural jews don't do it either, even though it's supposed to be the defining feature of judaism - even non-religious judaism.

Crazy Joe Devola: You need to explain then why there are discrepant numbers of sex slaves being taken in the name of Islam vs. Jainism.

Stefan Travis: Economics.

Crazy Joe Devola: The Islamic holy texts explicitly sanction sex slavery, Jain texts do not.

Stefan Travis: Christian scriptures also sanction sex slavery. Christians used to have sex slaves, but now they do not. Did the scriptures change? No. The practices changed.

If the Jains should ever fall into a situation where they have sex slaves, they'll find an excuse for it - probably by reinterpreting their holy writings.

Because that's what holy writings are for.

Crazy Joe Devola: there is both a correlation and causation between religion and the prevalence of circumcision.

Stefan Travis: South America is largely christian, but doesn't routinely circumcise. The United States is largely christian, and does routinely circumcise.

Canada is more atheist than north amerca, but circumcises more.

Southern central europe is largely christian and circumcises. Russia is largely christian and does not.

russell d: Are you saying that Islamic radicals are lying about why they do what they do?

Stefan Travis: Not lying. Deluded.

russell d: And are you saying that you know better why they do what they do then they do?

Stefan Travis: Yes. Outsiders understand a culture better than insiders.


After this, the discussion degenerated into whether it's possible to believe a doctrine is true without understanding it - spoilers sweetie: It is.

So, boys and girls. What have we learned today? Only what we already knew: That the best way to test your ideas is to present them calmly and clearly. And if the result is offended sputtering, insults, or nervous attempts to evade the point, you're probably right.

So What Happens Now?

I have no idea.

In one way, I know exactly what to do. My muse is telling me to blog, though he's neglecting to say about what. I've got a youtube channel for recording creepypasta readings, and a small following. In three weeks I'll be 45, and will at least be somewhat thinner at 45 than at 44. Or indeed 34.

There's a job waiting for me in Turkey. Which is to say, I'm waiting for the paperwork to be completed for the school to officially exist so I can go and teach at it.

I can reflect on how it's now 20 years since the end of my abusive relationship with S, and 10 since the end of my doomed relationship with D. And 25 since my quick-burnout relationship with R. And also 25 since my never-quite relationship with C, and around 5 since my other never-quite relationship with the same C.

It can take years to realise the reason you're no good at relationships is...that you don't want a relationship.

But you know what? I still love you D. Just a bit. Because we never quite get over our first love. And if you left your boyfriend and your unknowing wife, I'd happily do the most foolish thing imaginable, and abandon everything to marry you.

And yes, I am drunk. Why do you ask?

So, I've been having occasional sex with one guy for over 20 years. But three months ago he canceled a meet, saying he was feeling ill. Since then, no responses to texts, no answering of calls.

Finding out what's happened, if anything, might be a bit difficult. Because I don't know where he lives...and I'm not sure I ever knew his real name.

Father is nearly 82, and divides his time between moaning about how he can't do much physical anymore...and pretending he still can. Mother is 73, and is much happier, having figured out the difference between "keeping busy" and "doing everyone else's work for them".

So I think I know what to do with my own life, my own concerns. But...argue with racist cretins on youtube comments? Argue with pseudoradical snowflakes on facebook comments? Educate my Jehova's Witness friends about real biblical scholarship?

Bite the bullet and renew my aquaintence with the british socialist left, pretending I haven't read far too much of their founding texts to believe any of it? Simply on the grounds that no one else can do organisation?

Build a business empire to fund and organise a secret militia to save western civilisation by putting a bullet through Donald J Trump's smirking skull?

None of these seem to be clear solutions, because the problems of the world have become so very unclear. So, there are two kinds of problems you can't solve - those you can't counter, and those you can't define.

Did I mention I was drunk?

Thinking is doubly difficult without talking. So at least, let us talk.

Jive Talkin'


We've all seen it, but we don't have a word for it. That moment when someone who appears to be an expert, holding forth incisively and clearly, makes a small slip...revealing themselves to be a complete fraud.

I have a friend who writes and speaks on politics, often straying into hot-button scientific issues of the moment. After showing me one particularly clearly argued piece, on why it doesn't matter whether climate change is caused by industry or sunspots, he mentioned the sun heating atoms of air.

"Atoms of air". Riiiight. It transpired he didn't know what atoms or molecules were, and had never heard of elements or the periodic table. And he had no idea of how global warming or global dimming actually happened.

I shouldn't have been surprised. This is the same man who once telephoned to ask whether chemtrails and floridation conspiracies were real. And who called another time to ask whether he'd won a free laptop - because a popup said he had.

Recently, a creationist in youtube comments was throwing around technical terms, "proving" the bible was written by god. And anywhere the New Testament text was unclear, this was because it was written in idiomatic Koine Greek, and thus to be read by the people of the "Koine district".

"Koine" means "common" - as in "common language". It was the Business English of its time, a simplified form of Greek used for international trade. But this initially plausible self-declared expert in all matters biblical and exegetical didn't know this basic fact.

Perhaps it doesn't matter when an idiot on the internet or an essayist with a thousand readers is fraudulent in a minor way. But leaders in the field also do it.

Richard Carrier is a mathematician and historian who literally wrote the book on the historicity of Jesus. He uses the brilliantly simple - but bizarrely counter-intuitive - Baysian analysis to cut through the waffle and confusion in historical epistemology.

He also gets confused between the Analytic/Synthetic and A-Priori/A-Posteriori distinctions, getting him mired in different confusions.

Analytic statements are true by definition. Synthetic statements are true if they follow logically from true assumptions. A-Priori statements are assumptions. A-Posteriori statements are drawn from observation.

Carrier conflates A-Posteriori with Synthetic, which is like conflating "Two matchboxes on the table plus another two results in four matchboxes on the table in this case" with "2+2=4 because 1+1=2".

I've read more than once in biographies of Ludwig Wittgenstein that he "founded the Vienna Positivist circle" - presumably by time travel. I've heard linguists declare English is a latinate language, because it's a germanic language with a lot of imported latinate vocabulary. And we've all heard arguments over which soap opera or which operating system is "objectively" "better".

The process of research is largely a search for sources you can trust. Because most of them you can't. Usually not because they're deliberately lying to you, but because they don't know how little they know.

Almost no one knows what they're talking about.

Gotta Have Faith


Do you believe that rain falls down? Now, do you have faith that rain falls down?

If you see someone standing in the street asserting that rain falls down and not up, you might wonder why someone would feel the need to state the obviously true. But if you see the same person standing in a thunderstorm, declaring with conviction that rain falls up as they feel it coming down on them, that's faith.

A statement of faith need not be false, but it must be implausible, and held passionately. The parents of a child who disappeared 20 years ago might cling tight to the belief that their offspring will return some day, and we recognise that it's not impossible that it will indeed happen, while acknowledging it's not at all likely. But if we saw the same parents casually holding the same belief but attaching no importance to it - that would seem profoundly strange.

So, faith must be passionate, and its objects unlikely. We don't even have a special word for beliefs which are mundane and held without intense emotion.

Indeed, the more implausible a belief, the more faith is required to believe it. This is why the most fanatical believers are also the ones with the wackiest beliefs.

But to turn this around, the people with the most faith to give are the ones who seek out the wackiest beliefs to expend their faith on.

How do you contain a fanatic? Give them something trivial or irrelevant to be fanatical about. The Turin Shroud is an obvious forgery, but even if it were genuine, its existence wouldn't support one christology over another. In spite of this, many fanatics come up with labyribthine sophisms trying to prove it genuine, as if that would somehow prove their theology.

If these people's efforts were directed toward catholicism itself, the church would splinter and implode. Churches direct potential heretics toward arcane irrelevancies for the same reason wider cultures direct potential troublemakers to sporting trivia.

But what makes one belief plausible and another not?

If I told you there was a teapot orbiting Neptune, and you had no way of investigating whether or not it were true, you could assign equal probability to truth or falsity, or refuse to assign any probability until some evidence turns up.

But actually you'd assume by default there is no such teapot, being ready to change your mind if evidence emerged that it were there.

If I told you there is a man in Brazil who's married 13 times, each time to a different woman named Maria, then it's rather unlikely - but probably not as unlikely as the neptunian teapot.

But if I told you my parents own a dog, you know that dog ownership is common, and that people seldom have reason to lie about such things, so you'd probably believe me.

So although there may be clear rules for the trained mathematician, in ordinary life we use a dense and inconsistent set of vague notions of plausibility to decide. This plausibility structure has aporias and outright contradictions, but for the most part is self-supporting - so we can generally justify our intuitions with other intuitions, which then justify the first set.

Different domains of life have different plausibility structures. In school, what the teacher says is considered probably true, because the teacher says it. Outside of school, teachers know nothing. In church, the priest is a wise guide. But the priest who visits your home is the happiness police, and must be lied to.

So, within religion and its rituals, the absurd and incoherent beliefs of the church become plausible. Miracles as explanations for natural events become commonplace. Statements which no one understands become obviously true - though still not understood.

So there is at the heart of religious faith a tension. On the one hand, articles of faith need to be wildly implausible to be articles of faith. On the other, they're rendered mundane by societal conditions which make them not just plausible but obvious.

Thus when engaged in acts of worship, believers do not have faith. And it's only when not expressing their faith that they have it.

Epitaphs

Things people don't say on their deathbed:

* I really wish I'd spent more time at work.
* I had too much sex.
* I should have worried more about what other people thought of me.
* Too many new experiences, they weren't good for me.
* Everything my parents taught me was absolutely true.

And of course,

* You can't get into too many arguments with morons.