Rebloggable by request.
Reuters: Facebook announced today that it received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests for user data from the U.S. government in the second half of 2012. Following suit, Microsoft said it received 6,000 to 7,000 criminal and national security warrants from local, state,…
“As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth’s final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.”
— Commissioner Pravin Lal, “U.N. Declaration of Rights”
“Everything happens for a reason” is my very least favorite thing for someone to say. It is bad philosophy, bad theology, bad thinking, and bad advice. It manages to combine the maximum of ignorance with the maximum of arrogance.
Other forms of this include: “There is no such thing as coincidence,” and: “It’s all part of the great plan.” They are all the intellectual offspring of Leibniz’s ludicrous claim that “this is the best of all possible worlds.”
Each form betrays the same enormous conceit and the same willful negligence.
I, personally, simply cannot imagine how it might be a good thing to tell myself, if I were to indulge in wish-thinking, that everything happens for a reason. The only conclusion is that whoever or whatever designs and plans those reasons is utterly cold, capricious, heartless and cruel.
Leibniz made his famous claim about “the best of all possible worlds” in response to the so-called Problem of Evil.
The Problem of Evil begs an answer to the puzzle of how a world run by an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God could contain evil. For: Would a god with those characteristics not, by definition, know about evil, be able to stop it, and want to stop it?
Leibniz’s solution to this puzzle, needless to say, is not the most credible one.
In his darkly comedic masterpiece, Candide, the great Voltaire shows exactly how stunning a lack of imagination one has to be possessed of to believe that everything happens for a reason.
Here is a scene from Candide in which the stand-in for Leibniz explains his worldview after witnessing the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake and volcano eruption, in which up to 100,000 people painfully died: “All that is for the best. If there is a volcano at Lisbon it cannot be elsewhere. It is impossible that things should be other than they are; for everything is right.”
All it takes is to discard the vain notion that everything happens for a reason is to imagine one small way that one small thing could be better. It would be better if everyone suffered a little less. It would be better if Lisbon and Port-au-Prince were not subject to hauntingly similar and equivalently tragic natural disasters on either side of modern history.
I don’t want to sound like I don’t understand the motivation for saying that everything happens for a reason. Believing in a caring, planned out universe is a consolation that everyone wants to offer to themselves at some point, whether that involves a god or not. A beneficent, caring, superior being in control is something that we get used to as children, and we miss it when it is gone.
I am simply saying that this is not a good way to go about getting that particular consolation.
Voltaire actually did witness that earthquake, and it changed him forever. It strengthened his resolve against Leibniz’s particular ill-founded optimism.
It assured him that while the universe can afford to be indifferent to us, we simply cannot afford to be indifferent to it.
In The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut imagines a fictional religion called The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, which exists to avoid the very conceit against which I am arguing. This is their prayer:
“O Lord Most High, Creator of the Cosmos, Spinner of Galaxies, Soul of Electromagnetic Waves, Inhaler and Exhaler of Inconceivable Volumes of Vaccum, Spitter of Fire and Rock, Trifler with Millenia - what could we do for Thee that Thou couldst not do for Thyself one octillion times better? Nothing. What could we do or say that could possibly interest Thee? Nothing.
Oh, Mankind, rejoice in the apathy of our Creator, for it makes us free and truthful and dignified at last. No longer can a fool like me point to a ridiculous accident of good luck and say, “Somebody up there likes me.”
via Nick Clairmount for The Proverbial Skeptic
The Proverbial Skeptic is a blog about sayings, quotes, aphorisms, quips and nuggets of supposed wisdom. Here we will examine and out anything well said but either untrue, half-true, deceitful, wrong, or plain stupid.
I’m such a bad friend when it comes to communication, like if you don’t try to get in contact with me you won’t hear from me for months at a time.
Welsh Landscapes »» Thomas Hanks
How to use your white privilege
If the “passing privilege” person is looking at this blog, this is one thing you can do, if you’re up to it.
Reblogging for excellence.
Scott Walker’s economic policies have the upward momentum of a boat anchor.
The National Memo: Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) is a conservative hero with a record of taking progressives and unions in a state that went for Obama and beating them twice. He’s cut government, taken away worker protections and empowered the private sector, making him the Republican insiders’ favorite for the 2016 GOP nomination.
His only problem is, his economic policies continue to fail — miserably.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has ranked the Badger State 49th in its 50-state Leading Index report for April. With an index rank of -0.74 percent, Wisconsin was one of only five states to show contraction.
The piece goes on to mention that Walker’s proposed budget “reads more like a campaign document than a plan to create jobs,” with your typical Republican tax cut for the rich and plenty of corporate welfare. “The governor is also rejecting Medicaid expansion and using the Affordable Care Act exchanges to kick 87,000 Wisconsinites off his state’s Badgercare program,” we’re told. The governor’s super-genius healthcare plan also costs taxpayers $150 million more than accepting the federal expansion.
The man is an economic disaster and a complete failure as a governor. Anyone still holding out hope for him to make good on his 250,000 new jobs promise is an amazing chump. It’s just not going to happen. Even he seems to have given up on it — it’s suddenly become a “goal,” instead of a promise.
At the center of this smoking crater lies the bomb that created it — bass-ackward Republican economic policies. He’s attacked demand at every opportunity and practiced the supply-side horseshit that has never, ever worked anywhere. You can’t cut workers’ pay and benefits, then expect them to keep up the same level of demand. Meanwhile, those big tax cuts haven’t managed to “trickle down,” mostly because they never do. Walker’s attacks on workers have had the effect that every serious person warned they would and Wisconsin’s citizens are paying the price.
I’ve been seeing the “Sponsored” posts on my mobile tumblr, but today is the first time I’ve seen them on my actual computer too. Sad faaaace