Will a relationship last if both couples are on meth? (This was a search string that got here.)

No!

Glad I could sort that out. (Also, “both couples”?)

Posted in Addiction, Methamphetamine, Recovery | Leave a comment

On the unrealism of dreams, and the problems with their depiction in fiction

Something has always struck me as being wrong with the oft-used narratives in science fiction and fantasy, where a protagonist for some reason, and it’s generally a noble one, gets to enter the dream of another person.

I’m thinking of movies like Inception, and the much better movie that I liked far more in my youth, Deamscape… In both movies, it is possible to enter into the dream of another person and interact both with them and their “dream world”. Inception tried to be too clever about it, and entered into the realm of contrived complexity, what with dreams within dreams and ambiguity regarding what was real and what was not – and impressed people much like pseudo profound statements do, because bullshit baffles brains. (If you don’t understand something, it is a common error to assume that the the thing is too complex for you or that the thing is “smart”, when it might be the case that the thing is just nonsense that appears to be complex. This is why some people are impressed by, for example, the word salad of Deepak Chopra.) But I digress; reviewing a movie with a plot that was fundamentally flawed and hid its flaws with contrived complexity, that most people thought was good, is not my aim for today.

As real as dreams may be to us when we experience them, they are not as realistic as they might seem. We know that we forget details of our dreams within seconds of waking from them, and I don’t dispute this… But what I think most people don’t realize, is that some of those details are not forgotten – they were never there in the first place.

To illustrate my point, I’ll invent a hypothetical dream… Let’s say I dreamed of making my breakfast this morning. I might find myself in the kitchen, with bowls for me and my son Josh, already containing cereal and sugar. Then I’d pour water from the kettle, already boiled, into those bowls. I wouldn’t remember adding cereal to the bowls, or putting the kettle on, or even walking to the kitchen, because that never happened. Anything outside of the dream experience is not constructed by the subconscious brain. It is assumed to have happened, and in our dreams, we accept that the setup for whatever situation we find ourselves in, has already taken place. In fact, if I didn’t turn around to the door and passage, there’s be no need for my brain to construct that either. There is no “dream world”… everything in the dream that isn’t in my field of vision or a part of my emotions in the dream… does not exist. I’ll get back to this, and how it relates to the dream narratives in fiction (although that should be obvious by now).

Last night I dreamed of my father. He died seventeen years ago, but as usual for me when dreaming, I forgot that he was dead. I was a passenger in his car, and he was driving me around despite being busy himself, with several errands to run. (That’s what he used to do. My dad always had time for me.) Maybe I got to this because my car is still at the panel beaters, so this seemed to make sense. Then we parted ways, and I was to meet him later, and found myself in a local computer store… I have been meaning to check the prices of keyboards, and find out if I can get a keyboard with backlit keys for my PC. The reason is that I sometimes play games at night, with the room lights off because Josh sleeps in the same room, and in the dark I can’t easily find some of the shortcut keys I use in my favourite game.

The technician was explaining to me that such backlit keyboards don’t exist, and giving me some very technical reasons for it, when my father entered the store. He was impatient and left, expecting me to follow him. As I watched him walking away, through the glass storefront, the dream broke down. I realized that the technician talking to me was still there, but had faded away because he was no longer important, no longer the subject of my attention. He’d become a ghost in my dream, while my dead father was a “real” person and the focus of my attention. I wouldn’t be able to find my father’s car if he got out of sight, because I didn’t remember where he’d parked. My father was walking to a car that didn’t exist, in a parking lot that didn’t exist, to run errands, the details of which I had no clue because my brain had only invented the fact that there were errands, but not the details themselves. And I’d been listening to a voice that was simply a construction in my own mind, of the voice of a real technician I’d heard before, talking absolute nonsense that sounded technical. (I’ll remember to check what keyboards they have though.) So I had a chuckle and woke up.

The point that breaks the plot in all those movies and books where you can enter the dream of another person, is that the dream world does not exist. When you dream, your lazy brain only fabricates that which is necessary for the dream to feel real, at the time. You might dream of solving a problem, and use problem-solving skills that you acquired with experience, without knowing what the problem is. You might dream that something happened to make you happy, or sad, or angry, but likewise not know what that something is. And you don’t need to know. Your brain can take a shortcut to happiness or anger or any other emotion because it knows how to feel them. The details are unimportant.

So, a movie like Inception where some people enter the dream of another and drive a van towards the building he’s in, makes no sense at all. If he’s dreaming, none of those things they interact with would exist, because they are not within his field of vision or within the scope of his emotions that form part of his dream reality. So maybe the protagonists could project their own details into the dream? I suppose that’s what you’re meant to assume. But that doesn’t really make sense either, if you think about it.

This doesn’t spoil such movies for me. I can still watch them and enjoy them for that they are – entertainment through fantasy and escapism. Knowing that the narratives of entering the dreams of others is flawed to an extent that it could never happen doesn’t really change anything, when all movies contain scientific impossibilities. But I enjoy thinking about these things anyway. Dreams fascinate me, as does the realization that the realities we construct in our dreams can fool us at the time, despite how flimsy they actually are. The brain is an amazing organ.

Posted in General, Movies | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Another example of begging the question

In case any regular readers are wondering, I haven’t gone anywhere. I’m still here, but don’t have much time to write at the moment. My car, which was in an accident I wrote about recently, is still at the auto repair shop, so I get a lift to work. My lift arrives about an hour later than I normally get there… just before 8AM. I normally get to work at around 6:45AM, so if I am in the mood for writing (and I only write when in the mood), I have around 30 minutes to write, publish, and correct or improve a post after it goes online, and then still start working 15 to 30 minutes before office hours start. Until I have my car back, I won’t be writing much.

I wrote this one mostly to share that first paragraph above, but while I’m here… I saw this strange OP shared in a debate group:

if anything can bring this universe into existence, that must be God

In other words, if anything can bring this universe into existence, that must be the magical explanation for the unknown that ancient man made up thousands of years ago. This is an example of begging the question. Yes, the explanation for the unknown is indeed an explanation for the unknown, but that doesn’t make it true. I’ve mentioned it before, but no matter how many times you assert what you believe, the assertion doesn’t become true. (Someone please tell Donald Trump.)

The person who posted it is probably thinking of an argument from first cause, which I wrote about a while ago, but I find that refuting it is unnecessary in this case. The poster in this case was unaware of the circular reasoning in the statement shared, and probably won’t even understand my rebuttal in the post where I discuss the argument from first cause, and won’t bother to read it anyway. That’s not my best post… I wrote it before I knew what special pleading is, and although I mentioned it, I didn’t call it special pleading.

Lately I partake in the atheist versus theist debate groups mostly for amusement. The status mentioned today was a little different, but it was still just another assertion. Most of the posts are written by people who don’t know or care what atheism is, and I am sick and tired of explaining it to them. It doesn’t help if you are in a debate group, and all you get to do is define what atheism actually is, over and over again, to people who refuse to understand, only to log into the group the following day to find another person making a similar statement.

Here’s another fine example of stupidity:

Are you alive or dead in the afterlife?

What would you answer to that? I simply replied with, “Loaded question is loaded.” What is the point in writing in detail a breakdown of all the claims and assumptions made by such a stupid question, when you know the person who wrote it is not going to comprehend the answer? It’s not like they’re even interested in an answer that addresses their assumptions. When anyone phrases a question that way, they expect an answer from someone who makes the same assumptions. So this person expects to debate an atheist who addresses the question of “alive or dead” in “the afterlife” without addressing the loading of the question… Someone who answers after they have already been “defeated” by “admitting” that an afterlife is real, which it isn’t. They do not know that they made assumptions.

Anybody who says there are no stupid questions has clearly not debated creationists.

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So bribe culture is a thing… Who knew?

Apparently I can still be naive. When someone attempts to solicit a bribe from me, I don’t take the hint because it doesn’t even cross my mind. Here’s what happened…

This weekend, I attended my brother’s wedding on Saturday. He had already arranged that I would be the one driving his two children back to his ex wife after the reception. This is convenient because I stay about five minutes from her, and I don’t drink. (Also, I no longer use drugs. Three years and six months clean now.) He arranged this before my car accident, but since my car is not yet repaired, he rented a car for me to use, which I drove there on Saturday and returned on Sunday morning.

All went well, but when I returned the car, alone – I was the additional driver although it was rented in his name, and he hadn’t yet arrived when I got the car back to Avis in Rosebank… the Avis guy inspected the car.

He went right around the car, looking for dents and scratches. Then, he got on his hands and knees and used his smart phone torch to check under the car. It turns out there is a light scratch on the front left bumper, that can not be seen unless you know where to look. He found it very quickly as well, almost as if he knew it was there.

Then he persuaded me to sign a form saying I saw it and it wasn’t noticed in our initial inspection of the vehicle, which I did. This is where naive me failed to realize that he was attempting to solicit a bribe. My brother arrived a few minutes later, and tried to bribe the man, but he said he couldn’t take the money because it was already written down.

Here’s the thing: He would have taken the bribe. He was clearly trying to solicit one. I was just too naive to see it. Taking hints is not something I have ever been good at…

I wonder how long he’s carried out this scam? Maybe I’m wrong and this was just opportunistic, but I really think that he knew exactly what he was looking for, and maybe he does it every time someone returns that particular car.

This was really shocking for me… I know our metro cops solicit bribes, because they are infamous for it, and make it quite clear… “What are we going to do about this”, or the suggestion that I can “pay a spot fine”, when of course there is no such thing as a spot fine. But an Avis guy? News to me.

When it comes to cops, I prefer to avoid paying any bribe at all costs, if possible. I did twice pay such a bribe because those cops gave me no choice, but normally when I refused, they’d let me go without even a ticket. But I had no idea that this bribe culture was bigger than just the cops. How far does bribery and corruption go in this country? I didn’t know how naive I could still be. Corruption in our government is well known, but on this small scale with the guy in the yard who inspects the Avis car being returned… This really took me by surprise.

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Is atheism as dogmatic as religion?

Yesterday someone asked the members of a debate group how we would respond to the suggestion that atheism is dogmatic, just like religion. My answer was simple: Tell the person to look up the meaning of “dogma” or “dogmatic”…

dogmatic

That’s the short answer. It should be perfectly clear that atheism cannot possibly be dogmatic. Of course, this assumes that the person asking the question actually knows what atheism is. They never do. So here’s a longer answer…

Before we can define what atheism is, in its simplest form, we have to agree on what theism is. I don’t think anybody will disagree with me when I write that theism makes at least the first two of, and possibly the last, of the following three claims:

  1. Creation happened.
  2. The god that you believe in (the particular one of your indoctrination) was responsible for that creation.
  3. If you accept this and worship that god (for example take Jesus as your personal saviour), you will be rewarded in some way, after death.

Here’s what atheism is:

  1. I don’t believe the above claims, because there is no evidence for any of them.

That’s it. No dogma, no creed that I follow. I simply reject your claims. I do not propose an alternative, and my views on science are irrelevant. There is no case of your dogma, whatever dogma it may be, being some sort of argument of equal merit to atheism. Atheism does not assert anything. It is merely a position of rejecting religious belief, as well as the dogma of religion.

In fact, I don’t even think past the first of those claims. I reject creation itself, without even considering anything further. And don’t tell me the evidence of creation is all around us. Besides it being irrelevant to my subject today, for you to take the things that you believe to have been created, as evidence of creation, the premise of your argument assumes the conclusion to be true. In other words, it’s circular reasoning.

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I had a car accident last Friday

I don’t even know what to say, but feel like I have to write something.

So I was driving to work at around 6:40Am on Friday, when I reached a point in the road where all the other cars stopped suddenly in front of me. I wasn’t even doing more than about 40 km/h. I hit the brakes, but in the rain and mud (I’ll get to why there was mud on the road in a bit), the car could not stop. It would have slid right into the other cars.

With less than a second to react, I did the only thing I could… There were oncoming cars so I couldn’t go over to the other side of the road, thus I had a simple choice: Crash into the cars in front of me, or veer off to the left and off the road. The problem was that there were roadworks on the left, in the form of a large hole, surrounded by concrete slabs and thin metal poles. Without any other options, I went left, and hit the roadworks with the left side of the car. This was just before a junction and the car then came to a stop at the junction, so I hadn’t hit any other cars.

When I got out of the car, there was a pedestrian lying next to the hole. He had been hit and thrown over it. He was lying in mud with his head stuck under a barrier. I ran from the car and helped him up. He’d hit his head on the barrier, but otherwise didn’t seem too bad. I took him to the closest hospital and then went to the police to report the accident.

I’m lucky the car can still drive, although there is some damage. I took it for an assessment yesterday, and am waiting for the quote from insurance today. In the meantime, I left the car at home – the left control arm under the wheel (whatever that is) is damaged, and the guy who assessed it recommends I leave the car at home until it gets fixed. I used Uber to get to work today, which cost me R96 one way. This is because my insurance doesn’t give me a courtesy car. This sucks. I don’t know how I can afford to keep using Uber. It might be cheaper to rent a car anyway.

Edit: I intended to explain why there was mud on the road, but forgot… Besides the roadworks which are next to the road, there is also a trench that was dug across it, about half a meter wide and I don’t know how deep. They filled it with sand, which turned to mud in the rain. So it’s a big fucking hole going right across the road, and that’s why everybody stopped, then slowly made their way over the trench. The hole next to the road is also surrounded by mud, so the whole road was covered in water and mud.

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Having the faith of a child is not respectworthy at all

My Live Writer spell-checker suggests that “respectworthy” isn’t a word. I’m going to assume it’s wrong. The evidence to support my claim that respectworthy is valid, is that several internet dictionaries list it. Anyway, on with the post…

The last couple of days, I spent some time in those atheist versus theist debate groups again. I figured that maybe seeing their arguments after taking a break would be refreshing, that I wasn’t giving them enough credit, and that the theists who debate aren’t idiots after all. Boy, was I wrong.

The first post I read contained nothing more than the proclamation, “Jesus is Lord”. That’s it. No argument. No logic, no reason, no point. Just another assertion. The poster didn’t respond to any questions or points in any arguments that were countered – he simply declared his assertion again.

Then his friend stated (twice, like repetition makes the statement truer or something) that “atheists are dead”. Also she alleges that we can’t understand the scriptures because we aren’t “Sealed by the Holy Spirit”. (“Hoo hoo hoo ho. The little wascal has spiwit.”… Obligatory Monty Python reference – I can’t help it.) After that she started about end times…

Ignoring the end times and that reading the Bible makes it clear that the world was supposed to end within the lifetimes of the generation who wrote it… I find the claim that we can’t understand the Bible quite interesting. What she is saying is that she can understand it (because she believes it), but we can’t (because we don’t believe it). That is, it’s a fine way of dismissing anything that doesn’t support what she believes. If she sees criticism, she ignores it without thinking. Not that thinking would do her or her friend much good, I’m afraid, but still… It’s an awful mindset to have. She even quoted a Bible verse that makes the claim that the Bible can’t be understood. Then of course she ignored my comment that asked how she could know what that means. (Sarcasm. Not everybody gets it.)

I wonder how much of this kind of belief has to do with that horrendous Bible verse they love quoting when indoctrinating children: (Matthew 18:2-4)

2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

That verse confused the hell out of me when I was a child. They’d often bring it up in Sunday school, and I’d be thinking, “But I am a child. What does this mean?” I gather it is supposed to mean that one must believe without question. But even as a child, I didn’t. I believed my parents, up until I was about 12 and figured out that they didn’t know everything and weren’t as smart as I’d always thought they were, but I’d already learned along the way that believing anyone else was a judgement call. For example, I was supposed to go for my First Confession (Roman Catholic) at 8 years old before I could do my First Holy Communion. I pretended to be sick to avoid the first confession because I didn’t believe it then. (I went a week later though, and got the grumpy other priest that nobody liked. Father Roche was his name.) Often I’d believe someone at first and then find out they were either lying or wrong. Mostly people are wrong about most things, not because they are deceitful but because they are mistaken. So my default position came to be one of skepticism… Give others the benefit of the doubt if it isn’t important and doesn’t affect me directly, but otherwise assume they are wrong until it is proven otherwise.

To start with the assumption that anything outrageous is true, that’s not a virtue. It’s not respectworthy. It’s stupid. It’s worthy of ridicule. Of course I don’t disbelieve everything. If you tell me (for example) you have a degree or you studied a particular subject, I won’t assume you are lying, unless you follow it up with something absurd that contradicts what you told me. But if you tell me all about your adventures in a parallel universe, where you were king of the butterfly people and supreme ruler of the fairy lands, I’m probably not going to believe you.

One does not start out with the assumption that the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot exists, and that UFOs are abducting people and sticking probes in their anal cavities. That’s not how the burden of proof works. Claims require evidence. When there isn’t any, the claim is probably not true. Some claims can be debunked; some can’t. For example, UFO abductions can easily be explained by sleep paralysis, whereas claims for the existence of gods are unfalsifiable. You also can’t refute that there isn’t a boogeyman under my son‘s bed or in the cupboard (because when you look and he isn’t there, maybe he moved). That doesn’t change the fact that the claim probably isn’t true, it just changes the nature of the claim itself. It means that the person who believes in it, believes despite a lack of evidence, and is willing to argue about it, and do things like try to shift the burden of proof, despite not having anything valid to debate.

Getting back to that Bible verse… One thing I have noticed is that the adults who “believe like children” don’t actually believe like children at all. Children are impressionable, yes, because their brains are not fully developed. Up until a point, they will accept whatever nonsense you tell them, because they don’t know any better. But as I have learned with my son, when he is presented with something that contradicts what he was taught, with criticism of what he has been taught, he is open to thinking about that criticism. This idea of a child, as presented by that horrid Bible verse and accepted by adults who are brainwashed, is nothing like an actual child at all. Real children are growing and learning. They adapt and when presented with information objectively, they reject nonsense quite quickly. (Try telling a child that dogs like to roost in the trees. Just try.) It is only when they are pummelled with nonsense from the time before they learn to think critically, until they accept it, and then hammer it in some more… that they end up as adults who are incapable of questioning the nonsense they were taught not to think about.

I deliberately included an absurdity in the previous paragraph, about dogs roosting in trees, knowing that brainwashed people would think me facetious. But consider this:

  1. Nobody believes dogs roost in trees.
  2. Some people believe that a man walked on water.
  3. Some people believe a man flew on a magic donkey and split the moon.
  4. Some people recognize that a flying donkey is ludicrous, but that doesn’t stop them from believing a man walked on water, even though that’s physically impossible.

As we see from point four above, if you are invested in a particular belief, if you assume it to be true, that allows you to recognize that other things are false, but you still don’t question your own belief even though it is just as absurd. Walking on water is no less absurd that flying a magic donkey. It is only when you accept the rest of the nonsense leading to that… that this magic man was the son of god, or god himself and also his son, that you can then accept other things that are so obviously untrue to critical thinkers. So was I really being facetious after all?

People like those two idiots I mentioned earlier are not childlike at all. They are not innocent, trusting and unbiased, with minds a clean slate ready to absorb and think about information and gain knowledge. Instead they are childish – they’re ignorant and are wilfully so, choosing to remain ignorant and believe in nonsense despite a lack of evidence, rejecting valid criticism and logic because of their bias to continue believing what they already believe, and are willing not only to defend their unfalsifiable position in arguments that they don’t or can’t understand, but also willing to mock the people much smarter than them who are trying to educate them. Of course those two Nigerians represent the extreme of their religion. But there are atheists in Nigeria too. In my experience debating theists, the arguments used by extremists, by the most stupid of the believers, are no different to those used by the more intelligent believers. They aren’t cluttered by added verbosity, syntactic complexity and hidden behind ambiguous rhetoric. They’re less wordy and of course simple-minded morons are less likely to toss red herrings every couple of sentences, but the fundamental arguments and the fallacies and flaws in those arguments, are the same.

The more I debate these people, the more I understand them, and the less respectful I become. I had some really good discussions with an agnostic a couple of months ago, but I left that group because it was full of asserters.

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