Religion corrupts morality

by Eric Bright

Pope holding on a golden staff while saluting an audience. The captions reads: Pray for the starving children while I hold this gold cross.
Pope holding a golden staff while saluting an audience. The caption reads:
“Pray for the starving children while I hold this gold cross.”
Note: This is written by an atheist for other atheists. You can rarely (if at all) convince a believer by an approach like this. Please don’t use this tone when conversing with your believer friends. It will not work.

Any believer I have ever seen so far, without a single exception, have had a moral standard that has been at best equal to the lowest moral standards I keep seeing in non-believers, and at worse a degree of magnitude lower.

That does not prove anything of course. That is a personal observation and can be biased. Although the number of believers and non-believers I have seen is large, still someone can object to the sample being non-representative of the actual population. That can very well be the case. read more...

Please cite this article as: Eric Bright (2014) Religion corrupts morality. BlogSophy. https://sophy.ca/blog/2014/03/religion-corrupts-morality/

Should we include the study of religions in the discipline of philosophy?

Epicurus’ Paradox
Epicurus’ Paradox

Someone said yes and this was her reason:

Mythology, astrology, humanity’s spiritual relationship to the stars , the soul, and God’s judgment on the soul, reincarnation, supernatural beings such as angels and demons, Plato wrote about all of those things.

An anonymous forum user. Edited for grammar and style.

Plato is particularly one of the worst examples one could have come up with to justify a position against my stance. If by that example she means that we have to study poetry, astrology, music, mathematics, mythology, reincarnation, demonology, the judgment day and the like because Plato has done so, then that’s not reasonable. read more...

Please cite this article as: Bright, Eric. (2013) Should we include the study of religions in the discipline of philosophy?. BlogSophy. https://sophy.ca/blog/2013/11/should-we-include-the-study-of-religions-in-the-discipline-of-philosophy/

The case against religions: Why the Law of Noncontradiction matters

By Eric Bright

Spock - a fictional character in the Star Trek.
Spock – a fictional character in the Star Trek.

Don’t have faith in logic

I am sure the reason you accept the validity of the Law of Noncontradiction (I would call it the law from now on) is not that you have faith in it. It does not even make sense to say that one has faith in the law.

Also, the law is not like physical laws or language laws, or social laws. Certainly, we all understand it. But, I have to emphasize this reality a bit further for my sake.

Laws of physics are called “law” and they are known to be established facts about the universe. However, they are contingent. There is nothing in the fabric of the universe that necessitates this set of laws over any other conceivable laws. Not a thing. They just happened to be how they are. They very well could have been different and no violation of anything would have happened had they been different. So, the laws of physics are contingent. One way to know it is to imagine universes with different laws and see if such imaginations ask for assumptions that might be inconceivable to be true. People have done so, and they have discovered that all of “the laws of physics” can be different without talking about anything inconceivable. read more...

Please cite this article as: Bright, Eric. (2013) The case against religions: Why the Law of Noncontradiction matters. BlogSophy. https://sophy.ca/blog/2013/08/the-case-against-religions-why-the-law-of-noncontradiction-matters/

Law of Noncontradiction: a black hole that traps bullshit

By Eric Bright

Black Hole

Religions are false alright,
but why can’t believers see it?

My point was rather that you seem settled on the fact that God doesn’t exist. Fine. We can debate that for years and probably not get anywhere (but who knows?). What I find surprising though is that, given that there are so many intelligent and thinking people who do believe in God, why you would trust your conclusion that they are all insane (famous or otherwise) uncritically. You might be right (I am not the guardian of truth) but we aren’t insane because we hold wrong beliefs. I read your posts with interest and I don’t find them convincing at all. This is not because I am insane! read more...

Please cite this article as: Bright, Eric. (2013) Law of Noncontradiction: a black hole that traps bullshit. BlogSophy. https://sophy.ca/blog/2013/04/law-of-noncontradiction-a-black-hole-that-traps-bullshit/

Intellectually Dishonest – how to drive a poster crazy by your comments in forums

By Eric Bright

It’s curious to see how religious geniuses (Christians and the like) are almost the only ones who “find” flaws in articles such as this one; only them. You never have the “right interpretations” for what they think must be the case. You don’t see as many commenters under those posts who are (1) non-believers and (2) do not wish to cover their own asses by trying to take down anything that questions their sanities and (3) find something substantial about the argument to attack, instead of red herring and attacking a straw man of their own making. For that matter, you don’t find a commenter who only meets the first criteria in the list for posts such as that one. Isn’t it interesting? One should ask what their motives might be. Why only them and not anyone else? read more...

Please cite this article as: Bright, Eric. (2013) Intellectually Dishonest – how to drive a poster crazy by your comments in forums. BlogSophy. https://sophy.ca/blog/2013/04/intellectually-dishonest-how-to-drive-a-poster-crazy-by-your-comments-in-forums/

Religious Mind – A Horror Story


By Eric Bright

“They call them extremists. We have our own names. We call them senators, congressman, governors, mayors, state legislators.” [Ralph Reed, Christian Coalition Executive Director]

It’s a disturbing observation that some people discuss matters not to learn or to investigate them but merely to convert you. I am talking about mystical minds, supers, and those who believe in things beyond the natural world or outside of the Universe, whatever that might mean.

There is a nice saying, attributed to Socrates by no one less than Plato, “I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.” And this is what the horror story I am going to tell you is formed around.

Let us assume, just for the sake of the argument, that we defined the word “god” already in such a way that it is coherent, consistent, and meaningful. That’s to say, let’s assume that we know what we are talking about. Then, we would be able to talk about what we called “god” without uttering pure nonsense. Only then! That is a big problem right in the beginning. In order for us to talk about an entity, call it x, we need to know something about it. Maybe we need to know what relationship(s) it might have with some other entities like y. Or perhaps what properties x might posses and lack. Even if x is an imaginary, abstract entity that we just made up, we need to know something about it.

How much do we need to know about x before we can start talking about it? Do we need to know everything about it before we can start? Everything that there is? Obviously not. Then, how much knowledge do we need to have, as a bare minimum, before we can start to talk about x?

In different sciences, when we postulate an entity such as x and we try to find its relationship with other entities, we usually know at least one thing about x, that x, whether it exists or not, might have some relationships with other entities.

Look at a very interesting entity called i, the imaginary unit, whose core property we decided to be i2 = -1. Pretty funny, eh? So, right away we know a few things about i:

  1. i2 = −1
  2. Solving i is not possible with axioms of elementary arithmetic, (as Edgar Brown said, “Simple equations such as a × a = −c cannot be solved even though a and −c are inside the real field unless we close the field with the addition of “i””); it goes against axioms such as:The two square roots of i in the complex plane.
    a × 1 = a
    and
    a × −1 = −a
    and
    The product of two negative numbers is the same as the product of the same two positive numbers:a × b = (−a) × (−b)
    Here are the proofs for the axioms by the way (http://goo.gl/OqBDw).
  3. And more…

As you can see, as soon as we assumed the existence of i as an imaginary friend, we started to know a few things about it. Nevertheless, all what we knew about it, or all what we assumed was nothing but i × i = −1.

This example shows us something important: That what we know or assume about x cannot be nothing. Either we have to know something about x or we have to assume something about x.

Now, when it comes to the concept of “god,” people seem to either assume or claim to know something about it. Let us investigate each options separately.

Assuming that x exists

We usually assume something when we don’t know enough about what we are assuming. What comes after the assumption, is usually derived through induction or deduction. If our assumption is false, the consequences of our reasoning after the assumption does not matter. The consequences might be true (in case of invalid arguments from the false assumptions) or false (in case of valid argument from the false assumptions). In both cases, the consequences do not matter. No sound argument can be made that has false assumptions, valid arguments, and also true consequences.

If the assumption happens to be true though, and our arguments also happen to be valid, then we will have nothing but true consequences.

However, the big problem with this, when it comes to assuming the existence of “god” is this: How do you know that your assumption is true?

How do we know if an assumption is true?

There is one way, and only one way to make sure if an assumption is true: Testing.

There are many ways of testing an assumption to see if it’s true or false. But, all of them are testing, one way or another. You might be able to test it by:

  1. Comparing it with other established facts and see if it conflicts with them
  2. Find an example that contradicts the assumption
  3. Try to gather evidences to support the assumption

There are many more ways of testing an assumption but all of these methods are different ways of testing. Among these methods, the weakest one is the third one. What the third method can do for us at best is to give us some hints. Examples and evidences alone are not enough for an assumption to be true. They must also coincide with (i.e. be corroborated by) other methods of testing our assumptions. Here is an example to show you why mere evidences are not enough to conclusively show an assumption to be true.

a. Let’s assume that all swans are white
b. We go to a park in Dusseldorf with a beautiful lake in the middle and see four white swans in there
c. Can we conclude that, “Yeah! ALL swans are white”?
d. No, we cannot.
e. How many more observations do we need before we can conclude that a is true?
f. Does seeing 100 white swans prove a?
g. No, it doesn’t.
h. Does seeing 100,000,000 white swans do the job?
i. Nope!
j. How many then?
k. The number doesn’t matter. Evidences alone cannot prove an assumption like a to be true read more...

Please cite this article as:
Bright, Eric. (2013) Religious Mind – A Horror Story. BlogSophy.
https://sophy.ca/blog/2013/04/religious-mind-a-horror-story/

How not to write in philosophy – Against obscurantism

Saint Jerome Writing
Saint Jerome Writing by Caravaggio (1573-1610)

By Eric Bright

[Updated on 2019-04-19]
[Updated on 2014-12-01]
[Updated on 2014-02-20]

Note:
If the reason why you write in philosophy is to confuse your potential readers, or to mislead them, or to obscure your point, or make it harder for the reader to understand you, or to make it impossible for the reader to get your point, then you don’t need to read this article. You can skip it and move on with your own style. You would do just fine.

Now, I am talking to the rest of us, those writers who write for readers to be understood. Believe me, not everyone writes in order to be understood. As it happens in philosophy, actually the opposite is true: many pseudo-philosophers have actually wrote books in order to confuse their hapless readers and fellow philosophers. read more...

Please cite this article as: Bright, Eric. (2013) How not to write in philosophy – Against obscurantism. BlogSophy. https://sophy.ca/blog/2013/03/how-not-to-write-in-philosophy/

Science and religion are similarly invalid; or are they?

By Eric Bright

Science versus Religion

[Note to the reader: (1) This is not an ad hominem attack on the people mentioned in the post (the names are not real names). I don’t know them in person and I also don’t care who they are so far as this post is concerned. You should be able to change the names to anything else and the arguments should still hold valid. (2) If you prefer, you can download an ODT or a PDF version of this article from here: http://goo.gl/AEHOc]

Science versus Religion

When someone starts asking questions about his fundamental convictions, he does not necessarily go all the way down the rabbit hole to derive the implications of what he believes as true. Most of us stop early in our search. Most of us never even reach the threshold for understanding the territory in which we plan to dwell. An example would make it more clear. read more...

Please cite this article as: Bright, Eric. (2013) Science and religion are similarly invalid; or are they?. BlogSophy. https://sophy.ca/blog/2013/03/science-and-religion-are-similarly-invalid-or-are-they/

Wittgenstein, Language, and Logic

By Eric Bright

Ludwig Wittgenstein

A few days ago, David Harvey asked the following question in my Google+ Philosophy Community:

Can anyone help me with Wittgenstein’s thoughts on language? I find his ideas mad, but I can’t help but wonder whether my teacher is twisting what his ideas are slightly (I never feel I can rely on them for correct information…) We’re doing Religious Language in class and my teacher has said that Wittgenstein said that like the rules of a game of chess cannot be used for a game of basketball, the rules of language cannot be used for another. Then, and this part I’m a bit sceptical of, my teacher said that, for example, he would argue that an atheist cannot critique the theist’s view as they are talking with different base ideas (or in different “languages”). read more...

Please cite this article as: Bright, Eric. (2013) Wittgenstein, Language, and Logic. BlogSophy. https://sophy.ca/blog/2013/01/wittgenstein-language-and-logic/

StupidFile! – Cannot Delete File On Desktop


by Eric Bright

Updated on February 12, 2019

Objective: removing an apparently irremovable file or folder.

Affected OS: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, and newer versions

Symptoms:

You have a FOLDER on your desktop with a FILE in it, which you cannot delete.

You’re given this message:

“Cannot read from the source file or disk.”

Possible “solutions” that might not work:

  • You downloaded Process Explorer and examined every single process running in memory to find a sign of a program that may be using _something_ in that folder. You closed all programs, every resident applications, and all running processes that can be closed. You also closed even some of Windows process and stopped as many services as possible; no sign of any file handle to anything related to that folder… result: negative.
  • You have uninstalled many programs that you suspect they may cause the problem;… negative.
  • You tried to do “Open with…” then created a file with the same name, saved over the existing one… with no luck.
  • You have no Spyware, no virus and nothing suspicious at all.
  • You did chkdsk c: /f, RegSeeker, NortonDiskDoctor, Regedit (see also this), and lots of command line instructions that you read in forums;… negative (in regedit, you cannot even see any entry with the same name as that stupid file in your Windows registry.) (more about chkdsk.)
  • In the end, before installing a fresh damn Windows, why don’t you try this one:

Last resort:

At a cmd prompt type the following:

RD /S /Q [drive:] path

Example:

[on Windows XP]

C:\Documents and Settings[your log-in name]\Desktop\>RD /S /Q foldername

[on Windows 7]

C:\Users[your log-in name]\Desktop\>RD /S /Q foldername

Another example: assume I have such a bad folder on my desktop; its name is StupidFolder, and there is a file inside it, named BS. with a zero length and no other retrievable properties, or perhaps it has a creation date; assume that my log-in name is eric and we are on a Win 10 system. Now:

  • Run -> cmd.exe
  • cd c:\Users\eric\Desktop\
  • rd /s /q stupidfolder

Caution:
Be very careful with what you are doing, otherwise, you may lose everything on your desktop. The path of the command must be correct. Please double-check the spelling before pressing the [Enter] button. If you are not sure about what is going to happen or if you don’t know whether the path of the StupidFolder is correct, DO NOT DO WHAT I SAID. If you lose your valuable data, nobody, including me, would be responsible, but you yourself.

A little background about RD command

It goes back to the era of MS-DOS (see also

Basic DOS commands read more...

Please cite this article as:
Bright, Eric. (2012) StupidFile! – Cannot Delete File On Desktop. BlogSophy.
https://sophy.ca/blog/2012/06/stupidfile-cannot-delete-file-on-desktop/

Ubuntu and the Unity Paradigm

By Eric Bright

The first few days with Ubuntu 11.10 and its Unity

My system crashed completely. Everything in my Win7 installation is useless now. After saving my documents and whatnot from my dead Win7 installation using Ubuntu, now I’m thinking of giving up on Windows. I’m sick of it now. I’m sure Linux is going to give me a lot of headache and nightmares too, but in a long run, I think it’s the right decision to move away from Windows. I’m going to need a lot of help with stuffs in Ubuntu in near future and I’m counting on you. Wish me luck. read more...

Please cite this article as: Bright, Eric. (2011) Ubuntu and the Unity Paradigm. BlogSophy. https://sophy.ca/blog/2011/10/ubuntu-and-the-unity-paradigm/

How to digitally sign an e-mail

Written by Eric Bright

Last update on August 29, 2013

2nd updated on August 25, 2011

First published on Feb 3, 2009


[UPDATE: This solution would not work with Gmail any longer, because the Firefox add-on that I was using at the time is not supported any more. Read the instructions for the updated method of signing your email here.]

Requirements:

  • Operating systems: Win XP, Vista, or 7
  • Softwares: GnuPG, Firefox, FireGPG (it’s a Firefox add-on), GPGshell
  • A gmail account
  • Enough time
  1. Go to Tools > Add-ons > Get add-ons
  2. Search this: FireGPG [UPDATE: this extension is discontinued. It will not work with Gmail any more because the Gmail support is removed from the extension. Here is the blog-post explaining the discontinuation.]
  3. When the add-on is found, install it [UPDATE: the add-on (or extension) is not available on Firefox Add-on web site any more. You can get it from here though.]
  4. Download GnuPG from here
  5. Install what you have downloaded (the package contains GnuPG: 2.0.17 and several other applications. You only need GnuPG)
  6. Restart your Firefox
  7. Go to Tools > Add-ons > Extensions
  8. Browse down to find FireGPG and then click on Options
  9. You will probably get the following message: Error : FireGPG is unable to access the gpg executable. Make sure GPG is installed or specify the path in the preferences.
  10. Click on Ok
  11. Go to the GPG tab
  12. Put a check mark next to Specify the path of GPG
  13. Click on the Browse button and browse to the folder you just installed your GPG into. It is usually in the following location by default: C:\Program files\GNU\GnuPG\gpg.exe  (note: in a 64bit Windows, it would be installed in C:\Program Files (x86)\GNU\GnuPG\gpg.exe) Select it and press Open
  14. Now you are back to the FireGPG Preferences dialog box. Click on Ok
  15. Close Add-ons
  16. Now you need to make secure keys to sign your e-mails so NO one can forge your emails any more. Here is how to make new keys and how to use them:
  17. Download this GPGshell from here: http://www.jumaros.de/rsoft/index.html
  18. Now you should have a file with this name gpgsh377.zip on your desktop (or wherever the downloaded file is put automatically.) Unzip and install GPGshell
  19. When you are asked if you “want to use blah blah blah for the GPGshell-HomeDir” say Yes
  20. Now you need to set-up your computer’s Environmental Variables’ PATH. To do so, Right-click on My Computer (or on Computer if you use Vista) and select Properties
  21. Click on the Advanced tab (“Advanced System Settings” and then “Advanced” tab under Windows 7)
  22. Click on the Environmental Variables
  23. Then browse down in the System Variables list-box and find PATH
  24. Press the Edit button
  25. In the Variable Value field, add the following C:\program files\GUN\GnuPG and make sure that it is separated from the next entry by a semicolon (or if you added it to the end of the string, it should be separated from the last item by a semicolon that looks like. (Note: it would be C:\Program Files (x86)\GNU\GnuPG if you are using a 64 bit system)
  26. Press Ok, three times I guess
  27. If you are on a Win XP machine, you need to restart now for the changes to take effect. Vista/Win7 does not need a restart
  28. Now, open Start > GPGshell > GPGkeys
  29. It’s the first time you are running this application, so you might not have a pair of keys. Then the program asks you to “create your own key now”. Say Yes
  30. GPGkeys’ Key Generation dialogue box will open up. In the User ID section, fill in the Name, Comment, and your E-mail that you are going to use. Example: Name: Andi Ramfield Comment: My first key ring E-mail: [email protected]
  31. Now click on the Generate button
  32. A command-line window pups up. After it finishes its work, you will get a dialog box asking you to protect your key by a passphrase. Click on Yes
  33. A new command-line window comes up again. Now enter your passphraes (like a password, but can be much longer). Example: AnDi-RaMfIeLd-7531. You should repeat it one more time to confirm the passphrase
  34. Now the GPGkeys main window comes up. You are done with making a pair of Public key and Private key. You keep the Private key in a safe, and give the Public key to others. You should send me one copy of the Public key that you just created. To do that, in the GPGkey window, right-click on the key you just created. Then select Export. Put it on your desktop. The key that you export has to have pub.asc at the end of its name. That means that it is a public key, not your private key
  35. Now log-in into your Gmail e-mail account (or Yahoo or Hotmail or whatever). Go to Compose Mail and write something
  36. Select the text you wrote
  37. You will see several buttons added to your tool-bar. One is Clear sign. Click on that button while the text in the compose area is still selected
  38. FireGPG -private key window will pop up. Select the key you created and click on Ok
  39. You will be asked to enter your passphrase. Enter it and bang! You have your text digitally signed
  40. But for me to be able to verify your signature, you should attach your public key that you Exported on your desktop. So attach it to the email that you signed (you need to do it once and I will have it on my computer for as long as it is not expired)
  41. Ok! Now, you signed the text, and attached your public key. When I get your e-mail, I download your attached public key too, install it on my computer, and will be able to Verify your signature later

That’s it!

The good thing is that I can send you Encrypted e-mails as long as I have your un-expired public key and no one on earth, not even me, can open it [possibly for a long time]. To open it, one has to have your Private key. The Firefox’s add-on, i.e. FireGPG, will decrypt the received encrypted text if it still has your Private key. read more...

Please cite this article as: Bright, Eric. (2009) How to digitally sign an e-mail. BlogSophy. https://sophy.ca/blog/2009/02/how-to-digitally-sign-an-e-mail/