Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Difference Between Faith and Expectation

You Can Cripple Yourself Without Knowing It

Many times over the years, I have been asked about faith. Very rarely has the person asking intended to talk about anything but their own.
Yet a quick look at Adherents.com reveals that almost no one has the same idea about what constitutes faith. Most have no idea, even, what other people take for granted as “true”, and fewer still realize that this word, "TRUE", has a logical definition.

So, I find it necessary to distinguish between faith and expectation first - and then, between directed and non-directed faith. Yep, these things exist. Here’s how:

Expectation signifies a process by which cause and effect can be shown to produce generally repeatable results. For instance, when ordering a pizza, one can find a number in a phone book for a physical address you can actually visit; when calling the number, someone answers specific questions. You can find someone who has actually ordered pizza and gotten it. When you call, you have the expectation that the process will be successful in your case because it has been demonstrated, and conclusively. You are not surprised at success, AND you can obtain redress for poor service.
Faith has no such structure. A promise is made that a particular result will follow an action on the part of the person expressing faith, but the promise is not made by the agent cited as that taking action; actually, no one in sight of the supplication has ever seen effect follow cause. In short, pizza is promised by someone who has not only never seen the pizza delivered, he cannot say where it is coming from, or even what it looks like. Of course, there is always a ready answer if this figurative pizza does not arrive.

Faith has its own, extremely potent irony: it is not possible to have faith in something which can be shown to exist.

There is a difference between directed and non-directed faith.
In directed faith, a particular deity or agent has focus in the supplicant’s wishes for peace and success. The individual prays to God™, Jesus™, Allah™ or another entity in particular. A less-focused version of directed faith is often expressed that a governmental agency will "take care" of us. 
Non-directed faith - far more widely practiced, since everybody does this - is the expression of hope that the uncountable external forces which surround us do not interfere with our progress and/or health. This hope is actively coupled with denial that anything bad could happen in the near future.

This has nothing to do with the magnitude or value imagined by the faithful. Each of these above illustrate the utility of belief.
A belief is a sort of stepping stone, on which one can stand long enough to get on with life. Never dependent on logic or reason (be careful - do NOT use colloquialisms for "logic" or "reason"), a belief generally has as its major component an emotional commitment. This is due to its being a tool to counter fear of the unknown.

The price of awareness is discontent - a price many will simply refuse to pay in full. Yet it is necessary to take on part of that burden of awareness, and that depends on reason. Author J.M. Straczynski said it well: “Faith and Reason are like the two shoes on your feet: you can go farther with both than with either one.”
But you have to be careful about those definitions. Confusing faith for reason, and vice versa, will strand you as you build a false foundation for yourself, and leave you vulnerable to truly tragic disappointment.

You can still dream, but the plan for getting to the land of your dreams depends on reasoning.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Minimum Wage Debate: You Have Never Thought About "One Hour of Work"

If you think raising the minimum wage  - or even the existence of a minimum wage - is a good idea, think again.

Whenever a hike is mentioned, pundits actually ask a very good question:

Why not make it $20 an hour? $100 per hour?

Have you answered that? Because that's only a matter of degree. It's logical to ask that.
The fact of the matter is that there is an effect on cost that is invisible unless you know how the market for labor works. When you hike the minimum wage, you devalue the dollar for real. This is because there is no change in the amount of work obtained for more dollars!

Let me spell this out for you.

The DOLLAR is a marker, which people use for trade. Left to themselves, people decide how many dollars are appropriate to trade for a product or service. There is always a ratio of the number of dollars needed to obtain a product or service, and this ratio is established by the customers. It is known as "what the market will bear".
When speaking about a service, that is, labor, there is always a unit involved: One Hour Of Work.

Now, there is a fundamental quality to this which no one seems to realize. One Hour Of Work cannot be changed by anyone - not government, not an individual... and satisfactory work always has the same quality to it: the Hour Of Work produced the desired result.

Now, here comes a government agent, who or which has decided that the long-term effects of legislation are insignificant next to the good will and votes available by appealing to that mysterious demographic, "the poor", and people sympathetic to their plight. Somehow, it is impossible for an American to earn "a living wage" without government action (you MUST IGNORE the success of illegal immigrants for this case). The agent declares, by law, that One Hour Of Work must cost at least X dollars. Now, the ratio of the number of dollars needed to obtain a product or service is established by the government.

The law has just set a number of dollars as being worth One Hour Of Work. When that number is increased - by the SAME entity which establishes "full faith and credit" for those dollars - the actual value of each dollar is immediately decreased.

Remember - glue this to your forehead if you will forget it - legislation cannot change an hour of work. It can only change the number of dollars required to pay for it.

Maybe I should say that again for you, since a lot of people don't seem to get it:  legislation cannot change an hour of work. It can only change the number of dollars required to pay for it.

And have you noticed this? "Government", or the employer, is not paying the unskilled worker more - YOU ARE. It is always the customer who pays the cost of any business. You are not changing this, either.

Remember asking when you would ever use algebra in the real world? Well, here you go: what happens when you add the same amount everywhere? Yes, when you hike everyone's pay, nobody is better off. They just feel that way momentarily because they see a bigger number on their paycheck.

Go look on the shelf at the supermarket, at the gas pump, in a jeweler's cabinet and see what you're supporting by way of price hikes. It's not "them" - it was you, supporting minimum wage. The entire reason illegal immigrants are here and textile jobs are overseas.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What Do You Really Know?

Especially now that Facebook has allowed the speedy delivery of idiocy and nonsense from all over pop culture, I thought it might help if we all had somewhere equally speedy to look to figure out if what is posted is "the real deal". So, in addition to Snopes.com, here are a few links to help you figure out if your buddy's ladder has a top step:

Engineering Issues:
Now and then, somebody will post something nuts about how human artifacts are built. Try The Engineering Toolbox
Few things online indicate the advanced state of the scientific arts better than this page from the National Institute of Science and Technology...
Keep in mind that technology is not a thing - it is the process that allows things to be made!

Aircraft:
You might have a problem with statements about air travel.
The ultimate crash data center is the Joint Air Crash Data Evaluation Center
A ridiculously complete photographic archive - of everything that flies! - is at Airliners.net
If you want a pilot's perspective of how the aircraft industry is run, including some observations about the current state of American airline security, you can Ask The Pilot

Religion:
Ahh, yes, the subject best not mentioned in polite company!
Here's a list of most of them, along with summaries of their tenets and popularity by sect.
Hope you picked the "right" one... not much in that list is logical, and what they claim is surprisingly limited if you don't realize how much real study goes on elsewhere.

Earth Studies:
There is a HUGE amount of material to study at Darwiniana . In case you have a problem with the title of that Web site, well, you can independently find many of the same things by going to:
If you'd like to see photo-detail of the Earth itself, few things are as fun as Google Earth. The Moon and Mars are also shown in detail there courtesy of the Lunar and Mars Reconaissance Orbiters. Also, you can actually get Google Street View to show you what the Martian landers are seeing!
There are a couple of other places to find amazing photos. Take a look at Mars and Saturn while you're browsing. Those Cassini probe people have a lot for you.

Public Issues:
You might be fond of a particular personality to get your news. That's not such a good thing. You should know the difference between such editorial content and the information source. Do you know where to find the actual content of legislative bills? Right here: The Library of Congress 
You might not know how many atom bombs the USA has tested, much less how many have been tested elsewhere; did you think that Iraq had no WMD program, because you forgot that the Israelis bombed it? Anyway, here's a fascinating report on those weapons: The Nuclear Weapons Archive

Discussion Tool:
A fallacy is a statement containing a flaw which immediately invalidates that statement. Here is a list of those fallacies. If you want to make a point and make it true, you don't have a choice - you MUST avoid these!

Check back now and then. I have more!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"Miracle!"

Miracle - n. - an event or phenomenon of rare occurrence or circumstances, for which the cause or sequence of events is not clear to the observer.

Recently, I have been asked to support the idea of a belief in "miracles".

I can't - but maybe not for the reason you'd assume, especially if you are in the habit of taking things on faith, without thinking too carefully.

Look at the definition above, then consider any event that you find extraordinary, or maybe one that you have heard described as "miraculous" by some observer. If you look closely, you will find that the observer very simply cannot understand how such a thing has happened.

Please note that for this discussion, the occurrence of the event is not at question here - only its cause and effects.

The short story is that the incredulity of the witness has NOTHING to do with how any event or phenomenon occurs. Suggesting this effectively insists that something happens differently depending on whether Albert Einstein or Forrest Gump is watching.

If you went back in time and handed your cell phone to Dad in 1970, he'd have called it a "miracle" - and you know Samsung or Apple built it, even if you don't know how, so it's not miraculous to you.

On a more personal level, "miracle" is often applied to events with harsh consequences. We hear of the cancer survivor beating horrible odds, or the infant flung a thousand feet from the flipping SUV and surviving. In fact, neither of these events violates a single natural law.

Have you considered the term, "believe in"? I'm very sorry, but that flag indicates a serious emotional investment in whatever is being discussed.

Do the emotions of an observer change the process by which an event occurs? NO.

The laws of cause and effect are not changed by anything. I'm sorry, but this does not change based on how good a person you are, what church you attend or which way you face when the National Anthem is played.

When you see "a miracle", do not stop there, with mouth open in astonishment. Work to understand what happened. If there was injury or death involved, you may discover a way to avoid that risk.

And you will not disperse any of the wonder and awe that attended the event. I think you will marvel, instead, at the forces at play.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Global Warming: Start With The Basics, and Make The Distinction Between Science and Politics

If you think "Global Warming" is not happening, think again.

This issue is being screwed up by fighting over what to do about it, but the facts of the matter are not in doubt. Really.
However, you might not know how to figure out who is lying and who is not. This is pretty simple to figure out, if you can do just two things: see pictures, and understand that heat flows from "hot" to "cold" because the "hot" area has more energy in it than the "cold" one.
Pictures will show you diminished glaciers and polar ice caps, and a picture of the Earth from space will show you cities. Lots and lots of cities. Expending energy, right on the surface of the earth. So here's how that goes:
There are cities where there were none before.
Human population and energy usage grow over the years.
It is hotter in the cities.
It is that simple.

It doesn't matter what volcanoes or other natural forces do at all. Our liberation of energy from chemical and nuclear sources occurs directly into our living environment. Part of this is direct radiation, and part is the emission of gases that were not there before we released them.

Two wrongs do not make a right. If you were downwind of a factory that let off sulfur dioxide, you'd never tell them, "Hey, that's OK, volcanoes do that!"

This does not depend on the idea of government telling you what you can drive, or if you mistake being able to drive for some sort of liberty.

You might have a hard time when some well-meaning duffer blames a severe thunderstorm, tornado or fish kill on "global warming". Hey - I do, too, because warming cannot be credited for an individual incident without investigation. That's not how it's done. You MUST show your work.
That said, a hurricane's wind is the product of a truly tiny differential pressure exerted across hundreds of miles of compressible medium. I bet you can't describe the mechanism, and I bet you don't deny that a hurricane is a real thing.

The laws of thermodynamics will have the final say here. You should know what they are - and realize that when you set fire to something, the fire is the hot part.