Monday, March 31, 2014

What does my blog have in common with God?

Neither is dead! Hahaha, I'm so funny.

Anyway, as I'm sure you are aware, a movie recently came out that has set the internet ablaze with haters and defenders alike. I am here to revive my blog add my voice to the fray, because I am the only reasonable person on the internet.

Ok, seriously.

I have to admit, I haven't yet seen "God's Not Dead", so instead of commenting on the film directly, I'm going to comment on an actual atheist philosophy professor's take on it. Why, you might ask? Well the film set itself up as an apology of the Christian faith specifically to atheists. So, their opinion of it can be extremely informative. After all, if they are not convinced, then the film has failed at its main premise.

As far as the blog post I'll be critiquing, its rather long, ~12000 words long. My critique will only focus on a few statements, but the whole post is worth reading. If you do though, be sure to give it a fair reading. Really listen to what Dr. Fincke is trying to say. Some of what he says is wrong. Much of it is right. Some of what he says is born of a legitimate observation but is exaggerated. Its easy to dismiss his good ideas because you don't agree with his worldview. I challenge you not to do that.

Anyway, shall we begin?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pacific Rim Is Not A Dumb Movie...

...and if you say otherwise I will rocket punch you!

Yeah, so, ever since I saw Pacific Rim when it first came out I've been pretty much obsessed with this movie. Unfortunately it seems that there is a lot of people out there who think that Pacific Rim is merely an awesome dumb movie. Or a well done dumb movie. Or a dumb movie that knows its dumb and doesn't take itself too seriously.

These people are all idiots.


Because dumb movies have dumb characters and dumb plots and dumb themes. Pacific Rim has none of these. It has strong (if simple) characters, a simple plot, and the most beautiful theme I have seen in a summer block buster to date.

Let's look at these in order, eh?

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Audacity of Catholicism

*Update: Yeah, the main argument here doesn't quite work. But my sleep deprived haze of bad logic still brings up some good points and has spawned some interesting discussion in the comments, so I will leave this here unedited. Do yourself a favor though and read the exchange between Irked and Kevin.*

The Catholic Church makes a rather audacious truth claim that, to my knowledge, no other Christian sect makes. That is she claims to have the "fullness of truth." Quite the claim, and a rather foolish one at that is it not? The Church is, after all, a merely human institution, and humans being the fallible critters that they are cannot possibly hope to arrive at the "fullness of truth." I mean, we can probably arrive at some approximation of the truth. A set of beliefs that we hold to be true with the understanding that while they paint a pretty good picture of reality, there may be a few that deviate ever so slightly.

This was the case for just about every Protestant church I had been in. They laid out their beliefs, perhaps even ranked in order of importance or confidence, but there was always room left for error. We were told we had super high confidence in the basics, Jesus died on the cross for our sins, God exists as three persons in the Trinity, Heaven and Hell are real places, etc. And perhaps not as much confidence in the obscure things such as how old the earth is, what the order of the end times will be, is baptism by immersion or is sprinkling cool? To be sure everyone had their opinions on these less important issues, and it was these less important issue that made clear the distinctions between various denominations, but it was generally held that one can be Christian and disagree on such things.

The attitude was generally that of, "those other Christians are wrong, but our differences aren't too important so its best to live and let live." This is what I experienced growing up. Maybe your experience was different, but from what I've seen of Protestant writing those that aren't noisy attention whores tend to have some sort of "We can agree to disagree" attitude.

Except Catholics.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Texas Abortion Bill and Birth Defects

Darshak Sanghavi over at Slate recently wrote a post titled Who Has an Abortion After 20 Weeks? In it he claims that many women choose abortions half way through their pregnancy because it is around that time that technology can determine the likelihood that their unborn children (he uses the word fetus) will have a severe birth defect. He argues that since the Texas bill bans abortions after just about the time its possible to detect defects, women will either choose to abort a possibly healthy baby, or they will have to carry a disabled child to term. While I appreciate his concerns, along with those of the women he works with, birth defects are never a valid reason for abortion.

The primary question in the abortion debate is this, does a human being have a right to life?

Friday, July 12, 2013

PC Gaming Thoughts

While the Steam Summer Sale is doing its best to ravish the wallets of PC gamers everywhere I talked my roomate into buying the Counterstrike Complete pack (CS1.6, Condition Zero, CS:Source and CS:Global Offensive) because it came on sale for $7.50 and I'm always looking for new people to own in Counterstrike!

After he bought it we both noticed that Left 4 Dead 2 had also gone on sale for $5, and he lamented that he had already spent money that he hadn't planned on spending on Counterstrike when he probably would have liked L4D2 better but couldn't spend more. I can understand that frustration, and so didn't push that it. It was then that we decided to go to Freebirds and get 8 dollar burritos for lunch.

Which got me thinking.

One of the common complaints about PC gaming is that it is very expensive. Computers are typically more expensive than consoles and gaming computers are more expensive still! Or are they?

For as long as I can remember, Tom's Hardware's quarterly system builder marathons have always included a $500 or $600 budget gaming PC that has to compete against $1,000 and $2,000 machines. While the low end machine never wins in terms of frame rates, it typically does very well in the price/performance segment, and it is almost always capable of running all the test games at playable settings.

That is to say, a $500 gaming PC is within the realm of possibility. The PlayStation 3 launched at $500. The Xbox 360 launched between $300 and $450 depending on the configuration. Now a gaming PC will still require a monitor, peripherals, and operating system (though Steam is now on Linux so that may change), but console gamers still typically own a PC of some kind anyway. Even the cheapest systems from an OEM start at around $400. In the case of my roommate he owns a Macbook, which is far more expensive.

Now a common counter-argument is that PC gaming technology advances too quickly and that PC gamers have to constantly upgrade their hardware. Well, yes and no. If you want the fastest frame rates in the newest titles, then yeah, you'll be buying a new video card every year or two. However, PC game writers are very careful to include as many configurations as possible so they don't shrink their potential market. And some older game engines are still in constant use. Heck, the Source engine has been around since 04 and they are *still* new games being built on it! I don't think its unreasonable to expect console longevity from a gaming PC these days.

In the end, a lower end PC that is fully capable of gaming is, hardware wise, cheaper than a console and a PC. So far PC gaming is looking cheaper, but what about software?

Well, this posted started with Steam and necessarily returns to Steam. While Console games tend to start at around 60 dollars and do not have consistent sales, Steam has turned all of use PC gamers into Pavlov's dogs waiting for weekend sales or the summer and winter Steam sales. Most my friends tend to buy a lot of games at these sales, and then slowly play through them the rest of the year. While a Console gamer may be doing well to pick up a game for thirty bucks, we'll be buying four or five games for five dollars each. So, I think PC gaming is cheaper here as well.

Now I'm not making fun of console gamers, consoles are better for some things. Guitar Hero and Mario Party are two styles of games that I don't think would work well on the PC. I'm also not making fun of my roommate for spending more on a burrito than on a video game.

What I am saying is that it seems to me that this whole idea that PC gaming is more expensive should be put to rest.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Love, Debates, and People Being Wrong On The Internet

You can't change anyone. You can't get anyone to abandon their position and take up yours. Its not because they are stupid, its not because they need to "wake up" and its not because you just aren't persuasive enough. People just don't change.

Unless they want to.

See it doesn't matter how great your blog post is, or how awesome that captioned image of Obama you just posted to Facebook is, you aren't going to change anyone's mind (let alone their heart) with it. People are stubborn. We're subject to such things as confirmation bias, the backfire effect, and cognitive inertia. We are defensive and reactionary, and there's not much that other people can do about it.

You can make your opponent look stupid by lampooning their position, that just makes them defensive. You can make your opponent look evil by claiming the moral high ground, that just makes them angry. You can can debate your opponent and counter every point they offer, that just makes them determined to do better next time. No change of mind or heart will occur.

So what do we do?

You love them. The best way to get someone to pay attention to your ideas is to love that person. Its easy to ignore someone who is attacking you, its much harder to ignore the person bandaging your wounds. Its hard to deny the goodness of the worldview held by a saint.

When Proverbs 25:21 says to feed your enemies, and verse 22 follows by saying that by doing so you'll "heap burning coals upon his head" that's not to say that you'll be getting some sort of strange revenge over your enemies. Fire purifies, and the coals will purify your enemy's head, i.e., your kindness, your love, will win him over.

Admittedly it feels much better to ridicule or win a debate, but if that's the path you take you already have your reward. If you love your opponent you may win yourself a new brother. It takes time, and consistency, and turning the other cheek, but it is the only way to effect real change in another person. You can't debate someone into seeing the light! You can't ridicule a sinner into a saint!

So show people love. You may not win them over now, or ever depending on the hardness of their heart, but its the only way to even have a shot.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thank you NRA?

A criminal in prison recently wrote a letter thanking the NRA for "protecting my ability to easily obtain [guns] through its opposition to universal background checks." Quite predictably, this has caused quite the reaction. He goes on to say how he intends to buy a gun at a gun show once he is released.

If we want to think critically about this we need to point out a few things:

1) Under current law it is illegal for a felon to even possess a firearm. This mean that even without "universal" background checks Mr. Bornman cannot buy or even touch a firearm legally!

2) FFLs at gun shows MUST submit NICS checks. Bornman cannot legally purchase a firearm from a FFL holder, regardless of whether or not the FFL holder in question is selling at a gun show or a store front.

3) It is already illegal to sell a firearm to a felon privately. Remember point one? This is related but a little different. While private sales are currently legal (in most, but not all states) it is still illegal to sell a firearm to a felon.

4) Laws do not enforce themselves. With the above three points taken into account, we can clearly see that It is already illegal for Bornman to buy a firearm. Adding a "universal" background check law to this list would only make an illegal activity "more illegal." It would not prevent Bornman, whom clearly has no regard for the law, from obtaining a firearm illegally. It would however prevent law abiding Americans from exercising an essential civil liberty.

5) If Bornman is writing so openly about his plans to break the law and possibly hurt people, why ever let him out of prison? His letter may have more to say about our criminal justice system than it does about gun control.

So what do we make of Bornman's letter? A few things. I think its clear he's the type of individual who likes poking the hornet's nest. He has a history of writing such letters. And though I suspect that's all this is, disarmed victims are easier to deal with from his perspective so it makes sense for him to villainize the NRA.

To summarize, the argument implicit in Bornman's letter is that universal background checks would prevent criminals from getting guns. This is clearly false, no law can enforce itself. Background checks are only as good as the information in them, and even the complete ban of certain products has not prevented their sale on the black market. To blame crime on the lack of a universal background check law, and thus place responsibility on the NRA for opposing it, is disingenuous.

It does, however, stir up the hornet's nest.