Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Reasonable, Rational, Elon Musk

I ran into this wonderful quote from Benjamin Franklin;
"So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do."
Reason and rationality are bosom buddies.

There are a lot of quotes that essentially say "Man is not a rational animal, but rather a RATIONALIZING animal". Jonathan Haidt covers this extremely well in his book "The Righteous Mind". He uses an excellent elephant and rider for conscious/unconscious brain that explains an important part of our nature very well.

I love this quote from Blaise Pascal: 
"There are two kinds of people one can call reasonable: those who serve God with all their heart because they know him, and those who seek him with all their heart because they do not know him."

We all have our own "god" -- that which we perceive to be the highest good. Wealth, fame, sexual gratification, family, true love, winning the Super Bowl, etc . 

Realizing what our god really is can be quite difficult. I was a Christian for a long time before I realized that while I claimed (and believed) that I worshipped the one true God, my life showed that career, security, and money were really my god. 

Fortunately, even though I had the mistaken idea I had found him, he found me by Grace.

I throw this one in from Bertrand Russell, because I think it is a good bookend to the Franklin quote I started with. 

“It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.”
― Bertrand Russell

For each of us,  reason and rational are something we think we know when we see it. Like Potter Stewart in Jacobellis vs Ohio, 

“I have reached the conclusion . . . that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments criminal laws in this area are constitutionally limited to hard-core pornography. I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

For those who believe that science can answer everything, please show me an algorithm that could be used to define "hard core pornography", or admit that it is "in the eye of the beholder", therefore, subjective rather than objective. 

The reason I went off on this little excursion is because I find many people in life and especially on Twitter or other media, declaring that some opinion/person is "unreasonable, irrational, etc". Like most labels ... "that is a conspiracy theory", "that is crazy", etc, such labels don't move our understanding of whatever issue is being discussed forward. 

The Socratic method is much more productive. 

Can you tell me a little more about why you believe that? 

Well ... not always. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022


The "Fact Checkers" have ruled, Biden was NOT shaking hands with air! 

So you have a choice between believing your lying eyes vs the "Fact Checkers". 

Now, OTOH, we KNOW that BUSH brazenly put up a "Mission Accomplished" sign on an Aircraft Carrier when the Iraq war was far from over ... oh, and Trump mocked a disabled reporter

If there was such a thing as an unbiased media. both the W and the Trump claims would be "mostly false". 

All of these cases are like a close call in sports, there is not an obvious "truth". The problem is that MSM reporting is like the fans of the home team evaluation the close call that goes against them. To them it is NOT a "close call". they were ROBBED by clear biased play calling! 

Anybody with even a marginal exposure to sports knows how that works. 

The problem here is that the MSM is largely one sided, the home Democrat team. Sure, now there is Fox, with a somewhat equivalent bias to the Republican team, but they lack the resources and the widespread support of the population in even "Purple States". 

So in fractured America, we each have our "home team", with the Democrats having a top team, and the Republicans have "The Bad News Bears" .... oh, and the platforms like Twitter and Facebook censor even their relatively weak attempts show that most news has at least two sides. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Martin Luther, By Eric Metaxis

This review of from the NY Times, "Slaying The Dragon Of The Dark Ages" is pretty good.  As is said in that review, " ... warned his students that more books had been written on Luther than on any other figure in Christian history, save for Jesus Christ. Add to this colossal bibliography the scores of huge tomes filled with Luther’s own writings in German and Latin, and the effort required for summing up his life and work will seem even more daunting.". 

The review linked at the top may even be better. 

Luther was a brilliant and complex man. He is often derided by non-Lutheran protestants who focus on a quote REALLY  taken out of context ... "sin boldly". The original origin of the quote was because of a statement made by his confessor Staupitz while Luther was a monk, and a very dedicated Catholic. Luther continued to confess and confess because he took the Catholic doctrine of the requirement for all your sins to be confessed to a priest, because all your contact with God had to be mediated through a priest and the Church.. 

Staupitz became frustrated the frequency of needing to listen to Martin's confessions and said "Look here, if you expect Christ to forgive you,  come with something to forgive -- parricide, blasphemy, adultery instead of all these peccadilloes". 

Luther has a similar reaction to one of his main partners in the Reformation, Philip Melanchthon. Melanchthon was paralyzed by preaching boldly in Christ, and Martin channeled his old Staupitz incident with possibly the only Luther quote that many non-confessional Christians know ,,, "Sin Boldly"! This is covered well in this short article

Paul comes very close to this same statement in Romans ... sin still has power over us, but Grace has exceedingly more power, the link gives a good critique of "once saved, always saved" ... a fairly common belief for modern "Christians In Name Only" -- those that missed the parable of  the sower, and were seed on rocky ground, or victims of thorns.

It is also somewhat like Christians dealing with the fear of death. We are prone to fear it, and it is actually going to happen to both us and our loved ones, yet if we let faith work, we can say with Paul -- 

I Corinthians 15:55-57 NKJV
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

By the accounts of Luther's death in the book, he was comfortable dying, but during his life he certainly had bouts of fearing death as well sinning ... although "falling away" for even a short while did not seem to be a factor.  

My personal oversimplification of  points of interest in the book: 

  1. On the first page he explains why and African American pastor, Michael King, officially changed his name to Martin Luther King, and thus we have Martin Luther King Jr ,,, he was very impressed by the legacy of Luther as he visited Germany.  
  2. The book makes very clear just how huge a change in history the Reformation was. It made the Biblical doctrine of the believer having a direct relationship with God through the Bible, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, rather than the need for there to be "the church" as a mediator.
  3. This truth led to pluralism, for good and evil. Many denominations, the (false) idea that everyone can have their own truth, democracy vs the divine right of kings, and much more. 
  4. The issue of Luther's anti-semitic writings late in his life vs some of the strong support of the Jews early in his life, and the exploitation of some of his later remarks by the Nazi's. I see the case as presented even handedly, allowing each to make up his own mind -- something Luther was generally in favor of. 
  5. The journey from his early extreme Catholic devotion to his extreme anti-Popish views in later life is well explained and again, the reader is given both sides and decide for themselves. 
  6. As is proper for a biographer, Metaxis tries to avoid bringing his personal belief into the book -- but like Christians and sin, he somewhat fails.
  7. He says very little about the original and modern Lutheran Church and the stark difference between especially the ELCA and LCMS denominations. He also leaves a lot of Luther's clarity on "Baptism now saves you", and the importance of the regular taking of the Body and Blood as having real power in the Christian life.
  8. He is very clear about just how "earthy" Luther was, but fair about the difference between the time of Luther and our time. Bodily functions, privacy, and what we moderns would consider "propriety" was different, because living conditions were very different. Did he go into "TMI" on things like Luther's struggles with constipation? Personally, I would say yes, but reality is reality. 
For a non-liturgical Christian and even a Catholic, this is a good introduction to Luther and just how important a figure in history he really is. Would someone else have been able to actually just reform the Catholic Church as Erasmus was trying to do? Possibly. 

The worlds of "what if" are infinite ... this is an excellent work for history for all. It is not preaching Lutheranism. 

If you want to understand Orthodox Lutheran Theology. There is no substitute for "The Book Of Concord". 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

IgnoringThe Perfect Viral Beast

Some quotes from the linked:

... The proposal directs $599,000 of the total grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for research designed to make the viruses more dangerous and/or infectious — and its author acknowledged the danger associated with such work. 
... the “documents make it clear that assertions by the NIH Director, Francis Collins, and the NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful.”

So they funded enhancement of a Coronavirus to make it at least more transmissible ... if not. other "useful" features, and then they lied about it.  Fauci lied, people died.  At this point, what difference does it make? 

Why did Fauci fund making a virus more lethal? Doesn't anyone care? Are humans no longer generally curious, or has the cost of curiosity become too high? Perhaps, like feline curiosity which sometimes "kills the cat",  are scientists and governments afraid to be curious? Should I be more afraid? Just because I'm not paranoid doesn't necessarily mean that they may not come to get me..

Why would not every government in the world (other than China, and maybe the US)  not be demanding to see the complete documentation of exactly what that lab was working on, which protein, why that protein,  what steps were performed, what kind of "failures" happened during development (too lethal? Not transmissible enough? Not enough selectivity in lethality? Not certain enough mutations to insure long term effects? )  and what kind of "enhancement" were they seeking as a goal? It appears they may have "succeeded", but do we know? We can't because we don't know their goals, and nobody is curious about them. 

Could the lack of investigation be  because the Davos elite told them NO! When a handful of people hold more wealth than half the population of the world, it may mean we have a concentration of power in the hands of a small group of people whose interests don't necessarily align with the rest of us. Perhaps if we knew what was going on, they would have to kill us. (or I should say, more of us) 

Initially, the idea of Covid-19 spreading as the result of a "lab leak" was considered a "conspiracy theory", now it is at least a (and many say THE) likely source -- and that is from CNN and the Biden administration, so we know it comes from competent and eminently trustworthy sources!

It seems like the virus mutates a lot. Is that part of the "enhancement"? If I was amoral and wanted to create a "useful" virus, killing old people first, making sure it is really contagious, injecting billions with a "vaccine" that may not work very well against the original virus (but made me a lot of money for the "right" people), BUT, perhaps it "switches on" something much more "effective" for specific purposes. Say ebola? Might strike me as a "good" idea, depending on my amoral motivations. 

I'm guessing that after a few 10's of millions of ebola deaths, giving pretty much everyone a chance to see a few of their loved ones bleed, defecate, etc until death,  some sort of high priced treatment would be in decent demand. Just follow the money. 

Talk about "crazy talk"! The Western nations that killed 100s of millions via war, plus at least 100 million via abortion, would NEVER find anyone so evil!  -- well, maybe Trump or Hitler (same thing) ... Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were not really such bad guys -- just misunderstood! Our advanced universal scientific amorality would simply not allow it, and we have had nothing but trustworthy leadership across the globe for decades. Nothing to worry about! 

Reports of "Russian Disinformation" regarding US funding of biolabs in Ukraine, have been repeatedly "debunked" ... as more "far right conspiracy theories".  

According to this US State Department site: (wonder how long this stays around)

BTRP has upgraded many laboratories for the Ministry of Health and the State Food Safety and Consumer Protection Service of Ukraine, reaching Biosafety Level 2. In 2019, BTRP constructed two laboratories for the latter, one in Kyiv and one in Odessa.

BTRP supports many collaborative research projects through which Ukrainian and American scientists work together.  A few recent examples are:

  •  “Risk Assessment of Selected Avian EDPs Potentially Carried by Migratory Birds over Ukraine”
  • “Prevalence of Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever virus and hantaviruses in Ukraine and the potential requirement for differential diagnosis of suspect leptospirosis patients”
  •   “The Spread of African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV) in Domestic Pigs and Wild Boars in Ukraine – Building Capacity For Insight into the Transmission of ASFV through Characterization of Virus Isolates by Genome Sequencing and Phylogenetic Analysis”
  • “ASF Biosurveillance and ASF Regional Risk Assessment: A Field to Plate Survey

It gives one comfort to see that the US is funding dangerous research in foreign countries -- especially "friendly" ones like China, and those right next to Russia is a debunked far right conspiracy theory.

One type of virus being "studied" in UKraine is "Viral Hemorrhagic Fever  -- Ebola, being one you may be familiar with. It would make a great bio weapon if it spread like Omicron, rather than only by contact with bodily fluids. 

The minimally curious person might wonder why? Of course if you do even wonder, you have been taken in by Russian and Chinese disinformation

Deep down, we all know people are basically good! Why be curious? Just binge watch something mind numbing. Pay no attention to Hannibal Lector knocking at your door.


Monday, April 4, 2022

Being Like Bruce Willis

This is intended for those with a personal interest in me. The link is a good intro to aphasia in general. 

I don't have his looks or wealth, but unfortunately due to a brain infection  three years ago in early May, I do have aphasia in common with Bruce. So far, mine doesn't seem to be degenerative, but might be. 

 The evidence is that the damage from my brain infection/surgery causing seizures/aphasia are irreversible,  but hopefully not progressive. From my study/experience so far, each seizure is a “crapshoot". The wires got crossed by the initial damage, the ongoing seizures have a largely undefined effect as to how the brain attempts to compensate for the old damage AGAIN. The subsequent seizures  don’t seem to have any effect on the actual physical “wetware”, but there seems to be “software” running on that wetware … they obviously screw up that software right away, which is why the immediate effects are bad … like not remembering your name. “The dice” are rolled, during software “reboot” and so far it comes up with similar to the existing symptoms. 

I'm on lots of drugs to prevent the seizures ... last time, I went a year and 2 weeks before having another, so we added a drug and hope to break that record. Seven months and counting this time. 

Two weeks ago, while ending a spontaneous table prayer, I "brain locked" on "in Jesus name, amen." It was in my head, I just could not say it. It seems that the key ongoing symptoms are that inability to vocalize, or execute well known actions. A month ago, I mistakenly thought I needed to press two buttons on my ice auger to drill. I KNOW that right button is drill, and both buttons are reverse, but once I got the wrong idea, it was locked in ... I thought the auger was stuck in reverse, and had an embarrassing trip to the dealer.

I've had similar incidents since my first surgery, I imagine these will continue. 

At this point I have "incidents", but so far they are transient, and fairly infrequent.  Reading is still fine, typing is impaired, though not seriously so far. They don't seem to be getting more frequent, although that isn't that exact either. With each seizure there is some discernible loss.

The linked contains this possibly hopeful statement:

It isn"t only strokes that can cause aphasia. The disorder can come on gradually because of a brain tumor or a degenerative condition. It can also occur in temporary episodes brought on by seizures or, as I have reason to know, by severe migraine headaches.

So are my incidents due to the brain damage from the infection/surgery, or are they just "normal seizures" due the trauma of the infection/surgery? Probably a combination ... the HOPE was that I would have no lasting effects from the infection/surgery, but it wasn't a complete surprise that seizures resulted. The next assumption was that they would be "easily treatable" ... so far they have roughly been averaging every 6-8 months, but the last interval gives hope that we are zeroing in on the massive amount of meds to suppress them (near max dose of Keppra, plus Klonopin and Lamotrigine)

I totally echo this quote from the linked; 

The very worst attacks, the ones I have always found especially alarming, also cause transient aphasia. I suddenly find that I cannot summon basic words. I am unable to understand the meaning of anything I try to read and struggle to string together even the simplest sentences. Fortunately, these episodes of aphasia usually retreat within two or three hours, but they are intensely disquieting while they last. In the back of my mind there is always the panicky thought: What if this time the symptoms don"t subside?

My episodes of this scary set of symptoms are usually more like 24-48  hours after a seizure ... improving as the hours go by. "What if" is a common and generally unhelpful thought.

Since two of my primary enjoyments in life are reading and writing, the potential this is degenerative is scary. At this point, I have, and to the degree that anyone "understands" the gifts of the Holy Spirit ... the blessings of Holy Preaching, Communion and Christian Fellowship which I can understand and appreciate. Eternally they are more than sufficient ... life is but a vapor. 

When I was at the point of not knowing my name the first time, my Pastor offered me Communion. I started crying and stumbled through saying something like, " I know I need to believe something to take Communion, but I'm too mixed up to know what it is, maybe I shouldn't" ... or at least I think that is what I said. The Pastor said, "It is Jesus, not you that matters  ... it is a gift, it isn't about your condition, it is about him, and he knows your heart".

That was an extreme comfort to me. 

When I'm not having an "incident" (or of course a seizure) I seem "normal" ...  not able to remember names of people, books, etc ... but not so badly it seems "abbynormal (Young Frankenstein). My sentence structure may seem a little bit "off" at times, I may mix some words up, but so far nothing alarming. 

Enough rambling, even for those who care. I've had more than a blessed life -- "whatever will be will be".