The endless search

I just saw this on social media and it made me literally laugh out loud, but not at the joke, at a memory of something that wasn’t funny at all back then.

Searching

For about the first five years after I quit meth, I refused to search for anything, ever, for more than a minute or so. “If I don’t find it right away, I give up,” I’d say. “It’s gone.” It used to drive my ex nuts but I didn’t care. These days I have more patience and will search for maybe two minutes…

In fact, for a while I had two ID documents, because I thought I’d lost it and would rather go to the department of Home Affairs and sit in a queue for three hours and order a new one than search through my apartment. Of course I did eventually find the original by accident. (I only have one now because one of them was in my car when it was stolen last year.)

For once, I’m not going to explain why… This post is for the other former meth heads. If you too were addicted to meth, you know why I loathe searching for anything.

 

Does a queer occult-practicing feminist professor want to use the climate-change “hoax” to bring about the extinction of the human race?

No! What the actual fuck? And yes, I can’t believe I wrote that either.

One of my conservative Facebook friends took time out from her usual Islamophobic rhetoric to share this article last week and I’ve had it open in a tab, meaning to write about it since then. LifeSiteNews is a hate rag. You’d think that an atheist and woman would realize this, as their agenda seems to be mostly anti-abortion Christian hate, with a good dose of fear mongering. Now that I looked a little further I see they’re transphobic too, and of course they oppose same sex marriage.

Climate change is settled science. The 3% of climate scientists who disagree rely on bad or biased science. There is no rational reason to doubt it, even if a site publishes an article that agrees with some of your questionable views.

And why would an atheist share this shit anyway? I thought all of us agree that just like god and Satan isn’t real, the occult is nonsense too. The prof featured in their bullshit article is real, but that doesn’t make the article’s nonsense true. The best lies are ones mixed with truth, but even if we take what they claim about her at face value and she is a nihilist who believes that the solution to climate change and what’s best for the planet is the extinction of the human race, why would we then take her views as representative of all feminists, or all liberals, or whoever the baddies are in your agenda? It’s that same old chestnut where one bad black dude represents all black people to racists but bad white people like school shooters and so on are “lone wolves”. As always hateful views say more about those who hate than the victims of their hatred.

Also, can’t we all agree that anti-abortion is all about taking the rights away from women to their own bodily autonomy, and feminists are for the most part doing good in the world? It’s us white cisgender males who are the fucking problem here… If you aren’t going to support feminists or activists for queer rights, leave them be, please. They have enough problems without anyone sowing division and spewing hateful propaganda that stupid people are unable to see through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been too busy to write here lately

In case anyone has wondered about the lack of posts, it’s because I am busy at work, but saying that is perhaps not enough… I don’t divulge who I work for here so this will be a little vague.

Some of the software I write is used by a large customer base to collect payments, a type of transaction that tracks for a specified number of days, but those types of payments are being phased out in this country, to be replaced by a different, more secure type that uses a different kind of authentication.

I’m responsible for a large part of this software, mostly around the batch upload and processing of the contracts for these payments, as well as the sending of batches to the financial institution, and the processing of the various responses from them. We’re entering a short window now where the one type of payment will soon no longer be allowed in this country, and it so happens I am also responsible for most of the code related to the migration of the old type of payment to the new one.

Tensions are high – we have customers with millions of payments to migrate, and a brand new system that’s quite different to the old one, but has been plagued with problems, such as the financial institution changing their specifications without telling us after our system is already live, and their test environment being quite unstable. Due to the lack of test data and unstable testing environment, some parts of the code base are executing in production without ever having been tested. Things have gone wrong and things might still go wrong. So being responsible for a large part of such a system doesn’t give me much time for anything else, even outside of office hours.

So when I say I’m busy, I’m busy… I’d rather not be. I’d prefer to have time and energy to write here, but lately that’s difficult.

An interesting article about relapse

For my last post, my one bit of research, and I use this term lightly, was to link to a definition of tolerance. That led me to an interesting site.

There I found an interesting article related to relapse. They’ve found that neurogenesis, that is the generation of new nerve cells in the brain, may lead indirectly to context-driven-relapse.

“New findings from our lab show that neurogenesis—the generation of new neurons in the adult brain—in the hippocampus may strengthen memories tied to drug-seeking behavior in rodents with methamphetamine addiction-like behavior,” says Dr. Chitra Mandyam, senior investigator of the two studies. These findings suggest new approaches for reducing relapse risk. Says Dr. Mandyam, “We also demonstrated that inhibiting neurogenesis during abstinence with a small synthetic molecule prevented context-driven drug-seeking.”

They link to two recent studies so this seems legit. I suggest reading the article itself. It is quite technical but not too much, if I can follow it… What I didn’t follow was how long a period of abstinence they mean, but presumably it is the short term, as in early recovery.

They go on to describe drugs that can help by preventing neurogenesis, but I gather this is still in the early phase of testing. Still, I like to keep my mind active by mostly reading and learning new things. The idea of preventing new brain cells seems like a bad one to me (simply because neurogenesis is an expected effect of brain stimulation, which is important to me because I try to keep my brain active and thus hopefully “young”), but at least this mechanism whereby we are prone to drug-seeking behaviour due to memories when new brain cells form, is something to be cognizant of. The real work for me at the beginning of recovery was to keep my mind on other things, to be aware of my cravings but not act on them, and then eventually the interest to get drugs went away. This for me simply emphasizes how important it is to remain in control and avoid temptation in early recovery. After that, my opinion vs others related to addiction treatment diverges somewhat, since I don’t believe one need make any effort after the first few weeks. I didn’t. (Of course my experience was subjective. When I tried to quit a few years before, I relapsed after nine months, so saying “the first few weeks” might seem unreasonable. That’s just the way it went for me when I had made up my mind to stay clean for good. So it might be prudent to apply greater discipline in say… the first year.)

Here are the sources for the article:

 

A silly search string (meth no longer keeps me awake)

Excuse me for not writing much lately… I have been busy. So I saw this in a search string that reached this blog:

meth no longer keeps me awake

Lucky you! It’s time to quit. Or use more meth. The choice is yours. Seriously, one of three things is happening here:

  1. You’re crashing, because you’ve been up too long and have depleted all the dopamine in your system.
  2. It’s not meth. Street drugs are invariably poor quality, made even poorer by cutting them with other substances to give the impression of a greater amount.
  3. It’s your tolerance for the drug. The longer you use, the greater your tolerance and the more you need for the same effect, up to a point where no amount gives you the high you want.

If you’ve used for several days without sleep and depleted all the dopamine in your system, you need some sleep and you will get some whether you like it or not. Most likely it isn’t this because you’d have to be quite stupid not to realize it… It probably also isn’t number two because if the meth is cut with so much other stuff that it isn’t meth at all, you would notice there is no rush while taking a hit. That leaves number three – tolerance. If your tolerance is very high, you’ll get a rush but a high that wears off quickly, or no high at all. (It takes years to build this kind of tolerance.)

This is a good thing. If there is no high, the drug isn’t doing anything good for you any more. You probably still get anxious, and paranoid, and might even hear voices, but not get any pleasure. That’s what happened to me. I got all the negative side-effects but none of the positive ones. No pleasure means there is no point in continuing to use meth, or you could try to use a lot more, maybe inject if you’ve been smoking it. (The crystal form of meth is a salt and is soluble in water just like table salt.) And even that probably won’t do any good but will do plenty of harm. As for me, I was unwilling to ever inject that shit directly. No thank you.

But the sensible thing to do in this situation when smoking meth no longer works for you is to stop using meth. That’s what I did, and life is a lot better without it.

OK then theists, let’s consider why you shouldn’t shift the burden of proof onto atheists.

In my last post, I mentioned that theists often ask us atheists to prove there is no god. I also mentioned I wasn’t interested in writing about that. But I do think it adds value to consider that now.

In my research for this post, I found this article which asserts that sometimes theists have the burden of proof, and sometimes atheists do. The gist of it seems to be that whoever makes the claim has the burden, so when atheists claim there is no god, the burden lies with us. Except that isn’t what atheism is about, so the article is wrong because atheists don’t make such a claim. Theists will say that we do, but the thing is, that opens up a can of worms that they certainly don’t really want opened… but since most don’t even seem to know what atheism is, they don’t realize this either. So let’s open up that can of worms, shall we?

First I’ll jot down a couple of notes that demonstrate why shifting the burden of proof onto atheists also introduces some worms into your clever little plan.

  1. Atheism makes no claim but rejects all claims that gods exist.
  2. Theism, in most cases, not only claims that a specific god exists, but also implicitly rejects all claims that other gods exist, just like atheism.
  3. Theists always forget about point two because when they say “Prove that god doesn’t exist”, they imagine their specific god.

I have dealt with many Christians who think it clever to shift the burden of proof with, “Prove god doesn’t exist”. And I always answer the same: Which god? (Crickets…) Seriously folks, Jesus/Yahweh/Allah is no more notable a claim than Odin/Zeus, or some older god you never even heard of.

So by all means, feel free to insist that we atheists must prove god doesn’t exist, as long as you are then willing to prove that every other god doesn’t exist, because if me being an atheist means that I claim your god doesn’t exist, then by your own poor logic that means you claim all gods but your own do not exist, and the burden of proof lies on you to prove that. Good luck!

Of course there’s a bigger issue at stake here, an issue that theist debaters do not want to face… In religious apologetics, their arguments are often interchangeable. For example, a Muslim or a Christian might argue variations of Pascal’s Wager or the Argument from First Cause. This is common, and inexperienced debaters bring them up without even knowing they are common arguments. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It implies they came to those arguments by themselves. One should not fault anyone for that any more than one would fault somebody for not knowing how to pronounce a word they learned by reading.)

But their arguments are generic arguments for a “creator”, often filled with flawed logic. That logic aside, none of their arguments ever lead to a logical conclusion that their specific god exists. Debating theists is thus always an extended visit to Non Sequitur Land, a place where theists of different religions all make the same nonsensical arguments and all of them come to different conclusions. (This is an expected side-effect of starting with your conclusion and then fabricating pseudo-logic that you think leads to it.) Of course the lazy way to avoid this problem is not make an argument at all, and instead shift the burden of proof onto your opponent, which in this case makes no claim at all. (Sigh.) And you wonder why so many of us just end up calling them idiots?


Edit… I was looking for a post I saw on Facebook this morning, where a theist posted to a debate group that atheism is a “proposition that no god exists” in his attempt to shift the burden of proof. Can’t find it, but I do see that I have shared on this subject before…

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Another edit… Not the original one I was thinking of, but check out this bullshit. It’s from that guy again, and this time he posts his oddball false dichotomy and successfully suckers people into answering with the second option. (It’s a trick. Answer with option 2 and he will use it to mean something else.) Obviously the correct answer is “I identify as an atheist and thus I lack the belief there is a god.” I’m still on my ban so I had to save this to a collection to reply if I get the chance.

Other than the obvious errors in his logic with trying to turn a rejection of claims into a claim itself, asking a question that can have many answers and limiting those you accept to a simple binary is not terribly smart. But then John is not a smart man. See? This is why you shouldn’t debate.

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By the way, even if you do believe there is no god, that means something different to what he thinks it does. In his mind it means you reject his god because his one is the one true god.

I’m kind of surprised nobody has commented to this post with “But Christianity is the only true religion because Jesus [insert did something specific to the claims of Christianity here]”, which essentially comes down to “my magical thinking is correct because the magic I believe in is real”. But hey… it’s still early.


OK, last edit… I promise. Here, from the same group by another Johnny, is another fine example of pseudo-logic that jumps through some hoops to arrive at the predetermined conclusion that doesn’t follow.

This isn’t relevant to the burden of proof, but is relevant to my last point about arguments that “lead” to a creator being more than a little flawed and all of them being non sequiturs.

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Why I don’t believe in god

Every so often in theists vs atheists debate groups, theists ask us to “prove there is no god”. Well, I can’t do that. That’s not how it works as I make no claim, and the burden of proof lies on the ones making the claim that their god is real. But I don’t want to write about that today. How about instead of that, I present my thoughts on why I don’t believe?

When I first heard of god, I was a child. My parents taught me about God and Jesus, and like every child, I believed what they said. But I never saw this god. I just accepted what I was taught, up to a point. And then, when I grew older, I had my doubts. I had my questions and there were no answers for them.

The first time I realized something wasn’t quite right was at the age of six. I went to Sunday school in our local Roman Catholic church, and everybody there was singing a song about Jesus that I didn’t know. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…” And right off the bat, I didn’t fit in. I looked for Jesus in the church. I looked for god and the holy spirit, but they were nowhere to be found. But then I realized something, something important, that perhaps those of us who aren’t as socially awkward never stumble upon . It was never about Jesus, or god, or the holy spirit. It was about the participation. Fitting in, everybody together singing their little song about Jesus. Everybody singing together. It’s social; it’s a sense of belonging, a fellowship. It doesn’t matter that the subject is Jesus. It could be the Holy Hamster or the Pious Potato of Power (Cheese and bacon be upon Him). As long as you believe, as long as they suck you in when you’re young and you get indoctrinated, it doesn’t matter at all what the subject of your belief is, because you’re conditioned to accept it without question.

Once you reach that point, you impose meaning on the subject of your belief, meaning that doesn’t belong there. You accept without question that this thing you believe in is the source of your morals and values, even though you picked them up from those around you socially. You also accept that this thing created the world and everything in it, and you put this belief somewhere in the back of your mind, somewhere locked away as a child, such that you think you know it to be true, while in reality you know no such thing.

God is a placeholder for “I don’t know”. How did the world come to be? I don’t know. Therefore God. And if you assume this to be true, if it is set in stone in the deepest recess of your mind, set in your early childhood and you don’t even recognize that you don’t really know it, that is what makes you a Christian. Or a Jew or Muslim or whatever. You never notice that this placeholder, this little black box is empty, because you are conditioned not to open the box, not to look inside. You are conditioned to accept dogma without question, which brings me to the next point, the way our minds work, and the difference between the scientific method and dogma, and why we are so easily fooled by our false knowledge…

The brain is a strange organ. It drives us. We depend on it, but it is prone to certain biases and problems. We love a narrative. A story. We need a cohesive narrative for the world to make sense. So much so that our very memories are faulty. We remember only fragments, and then, when we recollect those fragments, we put them back together into a cohesive story. A story however that’s changed over time. This is why false memory is an issue. That’s just on a personal level, but then expand on that… people make up societies, and societies evolve shared rules and regional beliefs. And religions. Every culture has a creation myth, a god or gods. I see no reason to believe in any of them. Some people seem to assume that since there are certain things in common between all such religions, there must be some sort of universal truth. But again, this just comes down to the frailty of the human mind. It’s easier to continue to believe what you already believe than to realize the common thread between all religions is that the human brain created them, created a convenient placeholder to answer “I don’t know” with a simple and universal narrative, and one that conveniently takes away our fear of death, but that can’t be proven until after we’re dead.

And that brings us to the difference between science and dogma. Both have at their root the same source: the same human brain that likes a story. And guess what happens if we don’t have an explanation? We make it up. That’s what we do. That’s how science works. Don’t know how something works… then just make it up. And then, other scientists try to reproduce the hypothesis. Prove it wrong outright, or find that the hypothesis seems to be true. Then it becomes a theory. The theory represents our most detailed understanding of something, and is usually mostly right… or at least it’s not wrong. It gets refined, improved over time, and as the years go by, it gets better and better. (I’m not a scientist and I’m simply trying to convey what the scientific method achieves in the most broad sense. Any scientists reading, please excuse me.) Religious doctrine started out the same, but it doesn’t work the same way. It is dogmatic, meaning that by definition we are not allowed to question it.

In the case of Christianity, we have beliefs that were cast in stone about two thousand years ago. But instead of two thousand years of questioning and refining the doctrines, we have two thousand years of them being handed down unchanged, with the rule that one is not allowed to question them. Instead of a search for truth, we have fields like theology which is nothing more than made up reasons to continue believing what is already believed. Theology is, among other things, a system where we look at the things we assume god created and see signs of god in those things. In other words, all of theology is nothing more than extended circular reasoning.

If I were to draw a straight line across the page, assuming the starting point on the left is the beginning of time of the entire universe as far as we can trace back, and the rightmost point is this very moment, on that scale, a dot to indicate when our gods showed up for the first time would be pretty much on the right had side. Now. And yet we are told to believe that this god was there from the beginning. He is a little black box on the far left that explains everything. I’m sorry. I don’t buy it. It’s absolute bullshit.

While I do understand how indoctrination works, and know all too well how tough it is to change my mind when something I think I know is proven false, I struggle to understand why everybody doesn’t grow up and grow out of religious belief exactly as I did. To me that seems the most natural thing to do and why most people don’t do so will always be a mystery to me, a mystery that drives me to write about this subject over and over again.

Anyway, that’s the short version of why I don’t believe in any god. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the nicest narrative I can shape it into that hopefully even people who disagree with me can follow.