Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pat Condell and America.

Debate: Intelligent Design/Evolution - Must Watch!

ID Proponents: William F. Buckley Jr., Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, and David Berlinski

Evolutionist: Barry Lynn, Eugenie C. Scott, Michael Ruse, and Kenneth Miller

Thanks to Mr.Gawn for recommending this debate.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

McCain Called His Wife The C-Word

Another Christian Genius suffering from Paredolia

I think this one is more convincing:

*Sigh* This is why I do what I do.

From Atheist News

A comment from a Christian who believes he has disproved Evolution:

i saw on your blog that you like to talk about the religion of evolution and trick people by using big words and pretending that science actually proves evolution. I dont know any science or anything and even i know evolution isnt real. for one it isnt in the bible the bible said god made everything in 6 days, not millions of years. second, when we go to the zoo we cant talk to monkies, if we used to be monkies why cant we talk to them? three, how could a monkey become a person over billions of years when they dont live that long? AND why are there still monkies if they turned into people? five, even darwin said he was wrong. on his death bed he converted to christianity and said evolution was a hoax. If there is any science that makes it look like evolution is real then it has to be either a hoax by EVILutionists or put there by god to find out who believes in him.

I hope that after reading my questions you will see that evolution cant be true and people dont come from monkies. i will pray to god asking him to make you think like me.

Part Deux:

firstly i didnt give you permission to put my email on your blog. teh email copyright is owned by me and i will talk to my solisitor about making you take it down.

And no im not joking, you know im right thats why you didn't answer. If we used to be monkies we should be able to talk monkey. its like if a french man becomes american he can still talk french, its called logic. also on tv a scientist says crocodiles havnt changed for million of years. if evolution was true they would be able to fly by now or talk or grow fur or invent things. if evolution happens why didnt it make crocodiles better?

the devil tricked you into believing you are from mud to take you away from god. Why would you want to be from mud and monkies when you have the option to be from gods hand? If you just stop thinking the bible makes sense and you dont have to worry about anything. If you just stop trying to find things out and accept gods word jesus will forgive you.

i thing you should watch expelled by ben stein. It shows how science is from the devil and good christians are being fired from jobs because atheists know they have the truth. evolution believers know its evil and from the devil, and thats why they are frighetened of christianities real sciense



Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Is the Religious Right a spent force in American politics?

Taken from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Ask U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

According to The Washington Times, “Evangelical Christians in Iowa, dominant in the state’s Republican Party, have denied…Grassley his request for a place on the state’s delegation to this summer’s Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.”

Times political writer Ralph Hallow reported yesterday that religious conservatives hold a majority of nine out of 17 members on the Iowa Republican Central Committee, and they chose Iowa Christian Alliance President Steve Scheffler as chairman of Iowa’s 40-member delegation.

Former Iowa Republican National Committee member Steve Roberts told The Times the party structure is under the thumb of the Religious Right.

“It’s pretty well controlled now by the Christian Alliance,” Roberts said. “If somebody came to me and wanted to be a delegate to the national party convention, I used to say, ‘Talk to the state party chairman or to Grassley.’ Now it’s very simple. You go to the Christian Alliance, and they determine who is a delegate, and you have to do exactly as they say.”

You’d think Grassley, who has served in the Senate since 1980, would be a favorite of the Religious Right. Last year, he scored 100 percent on a scorecard put out by Family Research Council Action and Focus on the Family Action, two of the most militant Religious Right groups. Plus, Grassley is a conservative Baptist.

So what’s the problem? Grassley has led an investigation into the possible misuse of tax-exempt donations by mega-bucks television ministries. He says non-profits are not supposed to divert money to the personal enrichment of non-profit executives and their families, and that rule applies just as much to TV preachers as it does to everyone else.

But that investigation has not sat well with the mega-bucks religious broadcasters who run the Religious Right. Not being ones to turn the other cheek, Religious Right honchos in Iowa denied Grassley a voting slot at the GOP convention.

Mighty Christian of them, huh?

This little incident demonstrates what we’ve said all along: the Religious Right movement is theocratic, it is extreme and, ultimately, it is about political power.

By Joseph L. Conn

He's at it again! Help me get his tax-exempt status revoked

Please Fill out a 13909

Send it to this address:

Here is the info you will need on the form:

ATLAH World Ministries

38 West 123rd Street

Atlah, New York 10027

Pastors name: James David Manning

Download a completed form here:

Monday, July 28, 2008

Religulous - Exclusive Clip

What is the ``scientific method''?

What is the "scientific method''?

The scientific method is the best way yet discovered for winnowing the truth from lies and delusion. The simple version looks something like this:

  • 1. Observe some aspect of the universe.
  • 2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.
  • 3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.
  • 4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.
  • 5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

When consistency is obtained the hypothesis becomes a theory and provides a coherent set of propositions which explain a class of phenomena. A theory is then a framework within which observations are explained and predictions are made.

The great advantage of the scientific method is that it is unprejudiced: one does not have to believe a given researcher, one can redo the experiment and determine whether his/her results are true or false. The conclusions will hold irrespective of the state of mind, or the religious persuasion, or the state of consciousness of the investigator and/or the subject of the investigation. Faith, defined as belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, does not determine whether a scientific theory is adopted or discarded.

A theory is accepted not based on the prestige or convincing powers of the proponent, but on the results obtained through observations and/or experiments which anyone can reproduce: the results obtained using the scientific method are repeatable. In fact, most experiments and observations are repeated many times (certain experiments are not repeated independently but are repeated as parts of other experiments). If the original claims are not verified the origin of such discrepancies is hunted down and exhaustively studied.

When studying the cosmos we cannot perform experiments; all information is obtained from observations and measurements. Theories are then devised by extracting some regularity in the observations and coding this into physical laws.

There is a very important characteristic of a scientific theory or hypothesis which differentiates it from, for example, an act of faith: a theory must be ``falsifiable''. This means that there must be some experiment or possible discovery that could prove the theory untrue. For example, Einstein's theory of Relativity made predictions about the results of experiments. These experiments could have produced results that contradicted Einstein, so the theory was (and still is) falsifiable.

In contrast, the theory that ``the moon is populated by little green men who can read our minds and will hide whenever anyone on Earth looks for them, and will flee into deep space whenever a spacecraft comes near'' is not falsifiable: these green men are designed so that no one can ever see them. On the other hand, the theory that there are no little green men on the moon is scientific: you can disprove it by catching one. Similar arguments apply to abominable snow-persons, UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster(s?).

A frequent criticism made of the scientific method is that it cannot accommodate anything that has not been proved. The argument then points out that many things thought to be impossible in the past are now everyday realities. This criticism is based on a misinterpretation of the scientific method. When a hypothesis passes the test it is adopted as a theory it correctly explains a range of phenomena it can, at any time, be falsified by new experimental evidence. When exploring a new set or phenomena scientists do use existing theories but, since this is a new area of investigation, it is always kept in mind that the old theories might fail to explain the new experiments and observations. In this case new hypotheses are devised and tested until a new theory emerges.

There are many types of ``pseudo-scientific'' theories which wrap themselves in a mantle of apparent experimental evidence but that, when examined closely, are nothing but statements of faith. The argument , cited by some creationists, that science is just another kind of faith is a philosophic stance which ignores the trans-cultural nature of science. Science's theory of gravity explains why both creationists and scientists don't float off the earth. All you have to do is jump to verify this theory - no leap of faith required.

CNN - Now Emulating Fox - Turn Off Your TVs

CNN: Campbell Brown Calls House Judiciary Committee Hearing "Stagecraft" "Kabuki Theatre" "Waste of Taxpayers' Money"

This is disgusting... but it proves that televised media is corrupted by the powers of OLIGARCHY... I don't care who you elected president... your wet dream super activist... your anti-corporate hero... or for some the anti-central-banking knight in shining armor.

They couldn't get the truth out through that.

We know the truth... and any time before 1980... those hearings would have been taken very seriously... but CORPORATE HEADS told THESE TWO HAIR-DOs to use the words "Stage Craft" and "Kabuki Theater"... and they got on their dainty knees and did their duty.

Jesse Ventura on Faux News

Tennessee Man shot churchgoers over liberal views...

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (AP)— An out-of-work truck driver accused of opening fire at a Unitarian church, killing two people, left behind a note suggesting that he targeted the congregation out of hatred for its liberal policies, including its acceptance of gays, authorities said Monday..

A four-page letter found in Jim D. Adkisson's small SUV indicated he intentionally targeted the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church because, the police chief said, "he hated the liberal movement" and was upset with "liberals in general as well as gays."..

Adkisson, a 58-year-old truck driver on the verge of losing his food stamps, had 76 rounds with him when he entered the church and pulled a shotgun from a guitar case during a children's performance of the musical "Annie."..

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Monday that Adkisson may also have chosen the church because his ex-wife was a former longtime member of the congregation..

He remained jailed Monday on $1 million bond after being charged with one-count of murder. More charges are expected. Four victims were hospitalized in critical condition..

The attack Sunday morning lasted only minutes. But the anger behind it may have been building for months, if not years..

"It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred for the liberal movement," Police Chief Sterling Owen said...

Adkisson was a loner who hates "blacks, gays and anyone different from him," longtime acquaintance Carol Smallwood of Alice, Texas, told the newspaper..

Authorities said Adkisson's criminal record consisted of only two drunken driving citations. But court records reviewed by The Associated Press show that his former wife obtained an order of protection in March 2000 while the two were still married and living in the Knoxville suburb of Powell..

Alexander wrote in requesting the order that Adkisson threatened "to blow my brains out and then blow his own brains out." She told a judge that she was "in fear for my life and what he might do."..

Calls to the home of the ex-wife, Liza Alexander, were not answered Monday, and the voice mailbox was full..

In Adkisson's letter, which police have not released, "he indicated ... that he expected to be in there (the church) shooting people until the police arrived and that he fully expected to be killed by the responding police," Owen said. "He certainly intended to take a lot of casualties."..

The Unitarian-Universalist church advocates for women's rights and gay rights and has provided sanctuary for political refugees. It also has fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to its Web site...

Owen said authorities believe the suspect had gone to the Unitarian church because of "some publicity in the recent past regarding its liberal stance on things."..

Owen did not identify the publicity, but the Rev. Chris Buice, the church's pastor, is a frequent contributor to the Knoxville newspaper...

"In the midst of political and religious controversy, I choose to love my neighbors as myself," Buice wrote in an op-ed piece published in March. "Ultimately, I believe that tolerance, compassion and respect are the qualities we need to keep Knoxville and East Tennessee beautiful."..

Adkisson told authorities he had no next of kin or family. He lived about a 20-minute drive from the Unitarian church — one of three in the Knoxville area. The church is in an established neighborhood of older, upscale homes and several other houses of worship near the University of Tennessee..

The police chief said the suspect bought the shotgun at a pawn shop about a month ago, and he wrote the letter in the last week or so. A .38-caliber handgun was found in his home..

About 200 people from throughout the community were watching 25 children performing "Annie" when the suspect entered the church, pulled out a semiautomatic shotgun and fired three fatal blasts..

Church member Barbara Kemper said the gunman shouted "hateful words" before he opened fire, but police investigators said other witnesses didn't recall him saying anything..

A burly usher, 60-year-old Greg McKendry, was hailed as a hero for shielding others from gunfire as other church members rushed to wrestle the gunman to the ground. Police arrived at 10:21 a.m., three minutes after getting the 911 call and arrested Adkisson..

No children were hurt, but eight people were shot, including the two who died — McKendry and Linda Kraeger, 61...

When the first shot rang out at the rear of the sanctuary, many church members thought it might be part of the play or a glitch in the public address system. Some laughed before turning around to see the shooter and his first victims covered in blood..

Jamie Parkey crawled under the pews with his daughter and mother when the second and third shots were fired. He saw several men rush the suspect..

"I jumped up to join them," he told AP Television News. "When I got there, they were already wrestling with him. The gun was in the air. Somebody grabbed the gun and we just kind of dog-piled him to the floor. I knew a police suppression hold, and I sat on him until police came."..

Parkey's wife, Amy Broyles, was visiting the church to see her daughter in the play. She said Adkisson "was a man who was hurt in the world and feeling that nothing was going his way," she said. "He turned the gun on people who were mostly likely to treat him lovingly and compassionately and be the ones to help someone in that situation."..

Investigators were reviewing several video recordings of the performance by parents and church members. Owen said police would not release the videos or Adkisson's letter until they have been analyzed for evidence..

Adkisson, who faces his next court hearing Aug. 5, was on active duty with the Army beginning in 1974. Army records show he was a helicopter repairman, rising from a private to specialist and then returning to private before being discharged in late 1977..

Associated Press Writer Beth Rucker contributed to this story...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Footage From Yesterday's HEARINGS!

Kucinich(s) Enter To Cheers At Presidential Powers Hearing

Hearing on Limits of Executive Power: Dennis Kucinich

Hearing on Limits of Executive Power: Bruce Fein

Hearing on Limits of Executive Power: Jerrold Nadler

Rep King *Can't Believe We're Having An Impeachment Hearing!

Rep Wexler *Distorted Executive Privilege Beyond Recognition

Rep Baldwin *Impeachment Hearings Now Necessary!


'Prosecution of George W Bush for Murder!' Vincent Bugliosi

Faux News busted as propaganda tool

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Amazing man that was Albert Schweitzer

These excerpts are from chapter 11: Oganga, The Giver and Taker of Life. The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Holy Moses! PBS documentary suggests Exodus not real

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Abraham didn't exist? The Exodus didn't happen?

The Bible's Buried Secrets, a new PBS documentary, is likely to cause a furor.

"It challenges the Bible's stories if you want to read them literally, and that will disturb many people," says archaeologist William Dever, who specializes in Israel's history. "But it explains how and why these stories ever came to be told in the first place, and how and why they were written down."

The Nova program will premiere Nov. 18. PBS presented a clip and a panel discussion at the summer tour of the Television Critics Association.

The program says the Bible was written in the sixth century BC and that hundreds of authors contributed.

"At least the first five books of the Bible come together during the Babylonian exile," says producer Gary Glassman.

The program challenges long-held beliefs. Abraham, Sarah and their offspring probably didn't exist, says Carol Meyers, a religion professor at Duke University.

"These stories are unlikely to represent real historical events, but rather there's some kernel of ancient experience in there which has survived and which helps give identity to the people at the time the Bible finally took shape centuries and centuries later," Meyers says.

There's no archaeological evidence of the Exodus, either, she says, but "it doesn't mean that there's no kernel of truth to it."

Nova series producer Paula Apsell says she found it "extremely shocking" to learn that monotheism was a process that took hundreds of years.

"I was always brought up to believe that the minute Abraham and the patriarchs came on the scene, the Israelites accepted one God and there was just always one God and that was it," Apsell says. "I think people are going to really be stunned by that."

Another shocker: The program contradicts the biblical view that the Israelites came from somewhere else into the land of Canaan. "The film shows that they were Canaanites," Apsell says.

Creationist Science Fair

Monday, July 21, 2008

Losing of Progress by Christopher Hitchens

From Slate

It is extremely seldom that one has the opportunity to think a new thought about a familiar subject, let alone an original thought on a contested subject, so when I had a moment of eureka a few nights ago, my very first instinct was to distrust my very first instinct. To phrase it briefly, I was watching the astonishing TV series Planet Earth (which, by the way, contains photography of the natural world of a sort that redefines the art) and had come to the segment that deals with life underground. The subterranean caverns and rivers of our world are one of the last unexplored frontiers, and the sheer extent of the discoveries, in Mexico and Indonesia particularly, is quite enough to stagger the mind. Various creatures were found doing their thing far away from the light, and as they were caught by the camera, I noticed—in particular of the salamanders—that they had typical faces. In other words, they had mouths and muzzles and eyes arranged in the same way as most animals. Except that the eyes were denoted only by little concavities or indentations. Even as I was grasping the implications of this, the fine voice of Sir David Attenborough was telling me how many millions of years it had taken for these denizens of the underworld to lose the eyes they had once possessed.

If you follow the continuing argument between the advocates of Darwin's natural selection theory and the partisans of creationism or "intelligent design," you will instantly see what I am driving at. The creationists (to give them their proper name and to deny them their annoying annexation of the word intelligent) invariably speak of the eye in hushed tones. How, they demand to know, can such a sophisticated organ have gone through clumsy evolutionary stages in order to reach its current magnificence and versatility? The problem was best phrased by Darwin himself, in his essay "Organs of Extreme Perfection and Complication":

To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.

His defenders, such as Michael Shermer in his excellent book Why Darwin Matters, draw upon post-Darwinian scientific advances. They do not rely on what might be loosely called "blind chance":

Evolution also posits that modern organisms should show a variety of structures from simple to complex, reflecting an evolutionary history rather than an instantaneous creation. The human eye, for example, is the result of a long and complex pathway that goes back hundreds of millions of years. Initially a simple eyespot with a handful of light-sensitive cells that provided information to the organism about an important source of the light …

Hold it right there, says Ann Coulter in her ridiculous book Godless: The Church of Liberalism. "The interesting question is not: How did a primitive eye become a complex eye? The interesting question is: How did the 'light-sensitive cells' come to exist in the first place?"

The salamanders of Planet Earth appear to this layman to furnish a possibly devastating answer to that question. Humans are almost programmed to think in terms of progress and of gradual yet upward curves, even when confronted with evidence that the past includes as many great dyings out of species as it does examples of the burgeoning of them. Thus even Shermer subconsciously talks of a "pathway" that implicitly stretches ahead. But what of the creatures who turned around and headed back in the opposite direction, from complex to primitive in point of eyesight, and ended up losing even the eyes they did have?

Whoever benefits from this inquiry, it cannot possibly be Coulter or her patrons at the creationist Discovery Institute. The most they can do is to intone that "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." Whereas the likelihood that the post-ocular blindness of underground salamanders is another aspect of evolution by natural selection seems, when you think about it at all, so overwhelmingly probable as to constitute a near certainty. I wrote to professor Richard Dawkins to ask if I had stumbled on the outlines of a point, and he replied as follows:

Vestigial eyes, for example, are clear evidence that these cave salamanders must have had ancestors who were different from them—had eyes, in this case. That is evolution. Why on earth would God create a salamander with vestiges of eyes? If he wanted to create blind salamanders, why not just create blind salamanders? Why give them dummy eyes that don't work and that look as though they were inherited from sighted ancestors? Maybe your point is a little different from this, in which case I don't think I have seen it written down before.

I recommend for further reading the chapter on eyes and the many different ways in which they are formed that is contained in Dawkins' Climbing Mount Improbable; also "The Blind Cave Fish's Tale" in his Chaucerian collection The Ancestor's Tale. I am not myself able to add anything about the formation of light cells, eyespots, and lenses, but I do think that there is a dialectical usefulness to considering the conventional arguments in reverse, as it were. For example, to the old theistic question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" we can now counterpose the findings of professor Lawrence Krauss and others, about the foreseeable heat death of the universe, the Hubble "red shift" that shows the universe's rate of explosive expansion actually increasing, and the not-so-far-off collision of our own galaxy with Andromeda, already loomingly visible in the night sky. So, the question can and must be rephrased: "Why will our brief 'something' so soon be replaced with nothing?" It's only once we shake our own innate belief in linear progression and consider the many recessions we have undergone and will undergo that we can grasp the gross stupidity of those who repose their faith in divine providence and godly design.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Einstein on god

"the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.''

"I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind."

Brian, Dennis (1996), Einstein: A Life, New York: John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 0-471-11459-6

"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

Albert Einstein, in a letter March 24, 1954; from Albert Einstein the Human Side, Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, eds., Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 43.

"I am a deeply religious nonbeliever.… This is a somewhat new kind of religion."

Albert Einstein, in a letter to Hans Muehsam, March 30, 1954; Einstein Archive 38-434; from Alice Calaprice, ed., The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000, p. 218.

"I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms."

Albert Einstein, quoted in The New York Times obituary, April 19, 1955; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Thoughts, New York: Ballantine Books, 1996, p. 134.)

"A person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings and aspirations to which he clings because of their super-personal value ... regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a Divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance of those super-personal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation...In this sense religion is the age-old endeavour of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals, and constantly to strengthen their effects."

"Great spirits will always experience opposition from mediocre minds".

"What is more, god is a being with infinitely many attributes, each of which is itself infinite, upon which no limits of any kind can be imposed. So Spinoza argued that infinite substance must be indivisible, eternal, and unitary. There can be only one such substance, "god or nature," in which everything else is wholly contained. Thus, Spinoza is an extreme monist, for whom "Whatever is, is in god." Every mind and every body, every thought and every movement, all are nothing more than aspects of the one true being. Thus, god is an extended as well as a thinking substance."

If this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself.

How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?
-Out Of My Later Years

It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which [I] lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of the 'merely personal,' from an existence which is dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings.

- quoted in Einstein, History, and Other Passions

cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance -- but for us, not for God.

-The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas & Banesh Hoffman

man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

"Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine, November 9, 1930

If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. ...
- All the Questions You Ever Wanted to Ask American Atheists, by Madalyn Murray O'Hair

T]he scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation... There is nothing divine about morality; it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection... It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.

- The World As I See It (1949)

I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.

- to Guy H. Raner Jr., Sept. 28, 1949, quoted by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic magazine, Vol. 5, No.2

Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their conception of God. In general, only individuals of exceptional endowments, and exceptionally high-minded communities, rise to any considerable extent above this level. But there is a third stage of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form: I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.

- New York Times Magazine, November 9, 1930

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bill Maher - New Rules America Isn't #1

Olbermann Exposes the *REAL TERRORISTS*

Don’t Let Ideology Dictate Health Care!‏

Your immediate action is needed to stop the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from implementing an ideologically motivated regulation that would undermine women's access to health care by allowing federally funded health service personnel to refuse to provide services based on their personal religious beliefs.

The impact of this proposed regulation would be doubly harmful. Not only would it redefine "abortion procedure" to include normal forms of contraception, it would allow health care providers to withhold information and care options from their patients simply because these options conflict with the providers' religious beliefs. Religious doctrine is given priority over patients' needs.

Not only does this regulation represent bad science,
it's a clear violation of the separation of church and state.

Pick up your telephone now - call Secretary Michael Leavitt of the Department of Health and Human Services at 202-690-7000 and Christina Pearson, HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at 202-690-7850, and urge them to stop this proposed rule.

The regulation would require anyone who receives funding under federal health programs to certify in writing that they will NOT refuse to hire any medical personnel who object to providing services related to abortion or contraception.

Medical personnel who refuse services are usually motivated by religious beliefs, so allowing their personal objections to interfere with the delivery of reproductive services represents a violation of the separation of church and state as well as of common sense about abortion and contraception.

The proposed regulation means that hospitals, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists could refuse to provide reproductive services and still receive federal funds. State and local governments could not deny grants of federal funds to hospitals and other institutions that object to abortion for religious or ideological reasons.

The regulation includes a definition of abortion so broad that it includes much that is normally regarded as contraception. Abortion is defined as: "any of the various procedures that results in the termination of life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation." This is a transparent attempt to redefine emergency contraception as abortion.

In addition, the regulation is so sweeping that it would allow an employee whose job is to clean surgical equipment to refuse to do so because of personal belief. A health center staff person who objected to contraception could refuse to schedule appointments for women (and men) seeking help. This would cause chaos in the delivery of reproductive services, because those in most need—17 million women who rely on publicly supported health care—could not be sure of receiving information or medical aid.

Please telephone Secretary Michael Leavitt of HHS at 202-690-7000 and Christina Pearson, HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at 202-690-7850, and tell them that the proposed regulation must not be enacted.

Ask them to schedule a period of public comment on the proposed rule. You can refer to the rule as the extension of the Church Amendments, the Public Health Service Act Paragraph 245, and the Weldon Amendments, which purport to protect personal conscience.

Stop this regulation.

It is an attack on responsible public health, science, and separation of church and state.

Bookmark the Office of Public Policy Blog www.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Scientists Close to Reconstructing First Living Cell

By Nikhil Swaminathan

Modern cells are like microscopic cities: They have power plants (mitochondria), trash dumps (lysosomes), local government (the nucleus, with DNA serving as the legal charter), and many other activities going on inside their boundaries. They also have a border patrol in the form of a double-layered membrane that uses a series of protein-powered pumps, pores and channels to let nutrients in and keep other chemicals and substances out.

But, cells were very different when life began 3.5 billion to four billion years ago. Rather than small metropolises, they were more like a purse that carried instructions—consisting of just a membrane with genetic information inside. They lacked the structures and proteins that now make them tick. The question is: How then were they able to take in the nutrients necessary to survive and reproduce?

Harvard Medical School researchers report in Nature that they have built a model of what they believe the very first living cell may have looked like, which contains a strip of genetic material surrounded by a fatty membrane. The membranes of modern cells consist of a double layer of fatty acids known as phospholipids. But in designing a membrane for their cell, scientists worked with much simpler fatty acids that they believe existed on a primeval Earth, when the first cell likely formed. The key, says study co-author Jack Szostak, a Harvard geneticist, was to develop one porous enough to let in needed nutrients (such as nucleotides, the units that make up genetic material, or DNA) but strong enough to protect the genetic material inside and keep it from slipping out after replicating.

In an attempt to duplicate an early cell, scientists put fatty acids (that were likely membrane candidates) and a strip of DNA into a test tube of water. While in there, the fatty acids formed into a ring, or membrane, around the genetic segment. The researchers then added nucleotides—units of genetic material—to the test tube to determine whether they would penetrate the membrane and copy the DNA inside it. Their findings: the nucleotides did enter the cell, latch onto and replicate the DNA over 24 hours.

What scientists now must figure out, Szostak says, is how the original and copycat DNA strands separated and this early cell divided or reproduced.

"We're trying to solve a whole series of problems, step by step," he says, "and build up to replicating an evolving system."

David Deamer, a biomolecular engineer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, says he believes the team is on its way to making a prototype of a primitive cell that has "essentially all the basic properties of life."

Sam Harris Pwns Hugh Hewitt

Al Gore's Ambitious Challenge

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Debate: Sam Harris vs. Chris Hedges

Sam Harris author of the End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation

Chris Hedges author of I Don't believe in Atheists

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Christopher Hitchens: Christianity is not imposed?!

God Doesn't Talk to Jesse Ventura

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Christian Gene

New Terminator Film (not pwnage related)

The Myth of Secular Moral Chaos - Sam Harris

One cannot criticize religious dogmatism for long without encountering the following claim, advanced as though it were a self-evident fact of nature: there is no secular basis for morality. Raping and killing children can only really be wrong, the thinking goes, if there is a God who says it is. Otherwise, right and wrong would be mere matters of social construction, and any society would be at liberty to decide that raping and killing children is actually a wholesome form of family fun. In the absence of God, John Wayne Gacy could be a better person than Albert Schweitzer, if only more people agreed with him.

It is simply amazing how widespread this fear of secular moral chaos is, given how many misconceptions about morality and human nature are required to set it whirling in a person’s brain. There is undoubtedly much to be said against the spurious linkage between faith and morality, but the following three points should suffice.

1. If a book like the Bible were the only reliable blueprint for human decency that we had, it would be impossible (both practically and logically) to criticize it in moral terms. But it is extraordinarily easy to criticize the morality one finds in the Bible, as most of it is simply odious and incompatible with a civil society.

The notion that the Bible is a perfect guide to morality is really quite amazing, given the contents of the book. Human sacrifice, genocide, slaveholding, and misogyny are consistently celebrated. Of course, God’s counsel to parents is refreshingly straightforward: whenever children get out of line, we should beat them with a rod (Proverbs 13:24, 20:30, and 23:13–14). If they are shameless enough to talk back to us, we should kill them (Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18–21, Mark 7:9–13, and Matthew 15:4–7). We must also stone people to death for heresy, adultery, homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, worshiping graven images, practicing sorcery, and a wide variety of other imaginary crimes.

Most Christians imagine that Jesus did away with all this barbarism and delivered a doctrine of pure love and toleration. He didn’t. (See Matthew 5:18–19, Luke 16:17, 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 20–21, John 7:19.) Anyone who believes that Jesus only taught the Golden Rule and love of one’s neighbor should go back and read the New Testament. And he or she should pay particular attention to the morality that will be on display if Jesus ever returns to earth trailing clouds of glory (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9, 2:8; Hebrews 10:28–29; 2 Peter 3:7; and all of Revelation).

It is not an accident that St. Thomas Aquinas thought heretics should be killed and that St. Augustine thought they should be tortured. (Ask yourself, what are the chances that these good doctors of the Church hadn’t read the New Testament closely enough to discover the error of their ways?)

As a source of objective morality, the Bible is one of the worst books we have. It might be the very worst, in fact—if we didn’t also happen to have the Qur’an.

It is important to point out that we decide what is good in the Good Book. We read the Golden Rule and judge it to be a brilliant distillation of many of our ethical impulses; we read that a woman found not to be a virgin on her wedding night should be stoned to death, and we (if we are civilized) decide that this is the most vile lunacy imaginable. Our own ethical intuitions are, therefore, primary. So the choice before us is simple: we can either have a twenty-first-century conversation about ethics—availing ourselves of all the arguments and scientific insights that have accumulated in the last two thousand years of human discourse—or we can confine ourselves to a first-century conversation as it is preserved in the Bible.

2. If religion were necessary for morality, there should be some evidence that atheists are less moral than believers. People of faith regularly allege that atheism is responsible for some of the most appalling crimes of the twentieth century. Are atheists really less moral than believers? While it is true that the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were irreligious to varying degrees, they were not especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements were little more than litanies of delusion—delusions about race, economics, national identity, the march of history, or the moral dangers of intellectualism. In many respects, religion was directly culpable even here. Consider the Holocaust: the anti-Semitism that built the Nazi crematoria brick by brick was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity. For centuries, Christian Europeans had viewed the Jews as the worst species of heretics and attributed every societal ill to their continued presence among the faithful.

  • While the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominantly secular way, its roots were undoubtedly religious—and the explicitly religious demonization of the Jews of Europe continued throughout the period. (The Vatican itself perpetuated the blood libel in its newspapers as late as 1914.) Auschwitz, the Gulag, and the killing fields are not examples of what happens when people become too critical of unjustified beliefs; on the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of not thinking critically enough about specific secular ideologies. Needless to say, a rational argument against religious faith is not an argument for the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself—of which every religion has more than its fair share. I know of no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

    According to the United Nations’ Human Development Report (2005), the most atheistic societies—countries like Norway, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom—are actually the healthiest, as indicated by measures of life expectancy, adult literacy, per-capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate, and infant mortality. Conversely, the fifty nations now ranked lowest by the UN in terms of human development are unwaveringly religious. Of course, correlational data of this sort do not resolve questions of causality—belief in God may lead to societal dysfunction, societal dysfunction may foster a belief in God, each factor may enable the other, or both may spring from some deeper source of mischief. Leaving aside the issue of cause and effect, these facts prove that atheism is perfectly compatible with the basic aspirations of a civil society; they also prove, conclusively, that religious faith does nothing to ensure a society’s health.
    1. 3. If religion really provided the only conceivable objective basis for morality, it should be impossible to posit a nontheistic objective basis for morality. But it is not impossible; it is rather easy.

      Clearly, we can think of objective sources of moral order that do not require the existence of a law-giving God. In The End of Faith, I argued that questions of morality are really questions about happiness and suffering. If there are objectively better and worse ways to live so as to maximize happiness in this world, these would be objective moral truths worth knowing. Whether we will ever be in a position to discover these truths and agree about them cannot be known in advance (and this is the case for all questions of scientific fact). But if there are psychophysical laws that underwrite human well-being—and why wouldn’t there be?—then these laws are potentially discoverable. Knowledge of these laws would provide an enduring basis for an objective morality. In the meantime, everything about human experience suggests that love is better than hate for the purposes of living happily in this world. This is an objective claim about the human mind, the dynamics of social relations, and the moral order of our world. While we do not have anything like a final, scientific approach to maximizing human happiness, it seems safe to say that raping and killing children will not be one of its primary constituents.

      One of the greatest challenges facing civilization in the twenty-first century is for human beings to learn to speak about their deepest personal concerns—about ethics, spiritual experience, and the inevitability of human suffering—in ways that are not flagrantly irrational. Nothing stands in the way of this project more than the respect we accord religious faith. Incompatible religious doctrines have balkanized our world into separate moral communities, and these divisions have become a continuous source of human conflict. The idea that there is a necessary link between religious faith and morality is one of the principal myths keeping religion in good standing among otherwise reasonable men and women. And yet, it is a myth that is easily dispelled.
    2. Sam Harris is the author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Discussion between Richard Dawkins and Steven Weinberg

    The Nature of Government by Ayn Rand

    A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.

    Do men need such an institution—and why?

    Since man’s mind is his basic tool of survival, his means of gaining knowledge to guide his actions-the basic condition he requires is the freedom to think and to act according to his rational judgment. This does not mean that a man must live alone and that a desert island is the environment best suited to his needs. Men can derive enormous benefits from dealing with one another. A social environment is most conducive to their successful survival—but only on certain conditions.

    “The two great values to be gained from social existence are: knowledge and trade. Man is the only species that can transmit and expand his store of knowledge from generation to generation; the knowledge potentially available to man is greater than any one man could begin to acquire in his own lifespan; every man gains an incalculable benefit from the knowledge discovered by others. The second great benefit is the division of labor: it enables a man to devote his effort to a particular field of work and to trade with others who specialize in other fields. This form of cooperation allows all men who take part in it to achieve a greater knowledge, skill and productive return on their effort than they could achieve if each had to produce everything he needs, on a desert island or on a self-sustaining farm.

    “But these very benefits indicate, delimit and define what kind of men can be of value to one another and in what kind of society: only rational, productive, independent men in a rational, productive, free society.” (“The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness)

    A society that robs an individual of the product of his effort, or enslaves him, or attempts to limit the freedom of his mind, or compels him to act against his own rational judgment-a society that sets up a conflict between its edicts and the requirements of man’s nature—is not, strictly speaking, a society, but a mob held together by institutionalized gang-rule. Such a society destroys all the values of human coexistence, has no possible justification and represents, not a source of benefits, but the deadliest threat to man’s survival. Life on a desert island is safer than and incomparably preferable to existence in Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany.

    If men are to live together in a peaceful, productive, rational society and deal with one another to mutual benefit, they must accept the basic social principle without which no moral or civilized society is possible: the principle of individual rights.

    To recognize individual rights means to recognize and accept the conditions required by man’s nature for his proper survival.

    Man’s rights can be violated only by the use of physical force. It is only by means of physical force that one man can deprive another of his life, or enslave him, or rob him, or prevent him from pursuing his own goals, or compel him to act against his own rational judgment.

    The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships—thus establishing the principle that if men wish to deal with one another, they may do so only by means of reason: by discussion, persuasion and voluntary, uncoerced agreement.

    The necessary consequence of man’s right to life is his right to self-defense. In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. All the reasons which make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative.

    If some “pacifist” society renounced the retaliatory use of force, it would be left helplessly at the mercy of the first thug who decided to be immoral. Such a society would achieve the opposite of its intention: instead of abolishing evil, it would encourage and reward it.

    If a society provided no organized protection against force, it would compel every citizen to go about armed, to turn his home into a fortress, to shoot any strangers approaching his door—or to join a protective gang of citizens who would fight other gangs, formed for the same purpose, and thus bring about the degeneration of that society into the chaos of gang-rule, i.e., rule by brute force, into perpetual tribal warfare of prehistoric savages.

    The use of physical force—even its retaliatory use—cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens. Peaceful coexistence is impossible if a man has to live under the constant threat of force to be unleashed against him by any of his neighbors at any moment. Whether his neighbors’ intentions are good or bad, whether their judgment is rational or irrational, whether they are motivated by a sense of justice or by ignorance or by prejudice or by malice-the use of force against one man cannot be left to the arbitrary decision of another.

    Visualize, for example, what would happen if a man missed his wallet, concluded that he had been robbed, broke into every house in the neighborhood to search it, and shot the first man who gave him a dirty look, taking the look to be a proof of guilt.

    The retaliatory use of force requires objective rules of evidence to establish that a crime has been committed and to prove who committed it, as well as objective rules to define punishments and enforcement procedures. Men who attempt to prosecute crimes, without such rules, are a lynch mob. If a society left the retaliatory use of force in the hands of individual citizens, it would degenerate into mob rule, lynch law and an endless series of bloody private feuds or vendettas.

    If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules.

    This is the task of a government—of a proper government—its basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why men do need a government.

    A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective controli.e., under objectively defined laws.

    The fundamental difference between private action and governmental action—a difference thoroughly ignored and evaded today—lies in the fact that a government holds a monopoly on the legal use of physical force. It has to hold such a monopoly, since it is the agent of restraining and combating the use of force; and for that very same reason, its actions have to be rigidly defined, delimited and circumscribed; no touch of whim or caprice should be permitted in its performance; it should be an impersonal robot, with the laws as its only motive power. If a society is to be free, its government has to be controlled.

    Under a proper social system, a private individual is legally free to take any action he pleases (so long as he does not violate the rights of others), while a government official is bound by law in his every official act. A private individual may do anything except that which is legally forbidden; a government official may do nothing except that which is legally permitted.

    This is the means of subordinating “might” to “right.” This is the American concept of “a government of laws and not of men.”

    The nature of the laws proper to a free society and the source of its government’s authority are both to be derived from the nature and purpose of a proper government. The basic principle of both is indicated in the Declaration of Independence: “to secure these [individual] rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .”

    Since the protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of a government, it is the only proper subject of legislation: all laws must be based on individual rights and aimed at their protection. All laws must be objective (and objectively justifiable): men must know clearly, and in advance of taking an action, what the law forbids them to do (and why), what constitutes a crime and what penalty they will incur if they commit it.

    The source of the government’s authority is “the consent of the governed.” This means that the government is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of the citizens; it means that the government as such has no rights except the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific purpose.

    There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society: the principle of renouncing the use of physical force and delegating to the government his right of physical self-defense, for the purpose of an orderly, objective, legally defined enforcement. Or, to put it another way, he must accept the separation of force and whim (any whim, including his own).

    Now what happens in case of a disagreement between two men about an undertaking in which both are involved?

    In a free society, men are not forced to deal with one another. They do so only by voluntary agreement and, when a time element is involved, by contract. If a contract is broken by the arbitrary decision of one man, it may cause a disastrous financial injury to the other—and the victim would have no recourse except to seize the offender’s property as compensation. But here again, the use of force cannot be left to the decision of private individuals. And this leads to one of the most important and most complex functions of the government: to the function of an arbiter who settles disputes among men according to objective laws.

    Criminals are a small minority in any semicivilized society. But the protection and enforcement of contracts through courts of civil law is the most crucial need of a peaceful society; without such protection, no civilization could be developed or maintained.

    Man cannot survive, as animals do, by acting on the range of the immediate moment. Man has to project his goals and achieve them across a span of time; he has to calculate his actions and plan his life long-range. The better a man’s mind and the greater his knowledge, the longer the range of his planning. The higher or more complex a civilization, the longer the range of activity it requires—and, therefore, the longer the range of contractual agreements among men, and the more urgent their need of protection for the security of such agreements.

    Even a primitive barter society could not function if a man agreed to trade a bushel of potatoes for a basket of eggs and, having received the eggs, refused to deliver the potatoes. Visualize what this sort of whim-directed action would mean in an industrial society where men deliver a billion dollars’ worth of goods on credit, or contract to build multimillion-dollar structures, or sign ninety-nine-year leases.

    A unilateral breach of contract involves an indirect use of physical force: it consists, in essence, of one man receiving the material values, goods or services of another, then refusing to pay for them and thus keeping them by force (by mere physical possession), not by right—i.e., keeping them without the consent of their owner. Fraud involves a similarly indirect use of force: it consists of obtaining material values without their owner’s consent, under false pretenses or false promises. Extortion is another variant of an indirect use of force: it consists of obtaining material values, not in exchange for values, but by the threat of force, violence or injury.

    Some of these actions are obviously criminal. Others, such as a unilateral breach of contract, may not be criminally motivated, but may be caused by irresponsibility and irrationality. Still others may be complex issues with some claim to justice on both sides. But whatever the case may be, all such issues have to be made subject to objectively defined laws and have to be resolved by an impartial arbiter, administering the laws, i.e., by a judge (and a jury, when appropriate).

    Observe the basic principle governing justice in all these cases: it is the principle that no man may obtain any values from others without the owners’ consent—and, as a corollary, that a man’s rights may not be left at the mercy of the unilateral decision, the arbitrary choice, the irrationality, the whim of another man.

    Such, in essence, is the proper purpose of a government: to make social existence possible to men, by protecting the benefits and combating the evils which men can cause to one another.

    The proper functions of a government fall into three broad categories, all of them involving the issues of physical force and the protection of men’s rights: the police, to protect men from criminals—the armed services, to protect men from foreign invaders—the law courts, to settle disputes among men according to objective laws.

    These three categories involve many corollary and derivative issues—and their implementation in practice, in the form of specific legislation, is enormously complex. It belongs to the field of a special science: the philosophy of law. Many errors and many disagreements are possible in the field of implementation, but what is essential here is the principle to be implemented: the principle that the purpose of law and of government is the protection of individual rights.

    Today, this principle is forgotten, ignored and evaded. The result is the present state of the world, with mankind’s retrogression to the lawlessness of absolutist tyranny, to the primitive savagery of rule by brute force.

    In unthinking protest against this trend, some people are raising the question of whether government as such is evil by nature and whether anarchy is the ideal social system. Anarchy, as a political concept, is a naive floating abstraction: for all the reasons discussed above, a society without an organized government would be at the mercy of the first criminal who came along and who would precipitate it into the chaos of gang warfare. But the possibility of human immorality is not the only objection to anarchy: even a society whose every member were fully rational and faultlessly moral, could not function in a state of anarchy: it is the need of objective laws and of an arbiter for honest disagreements among men that necessitates the establishment of a government.

    A recent variant of anarchistic theory, which is befuddling some of the younger advocates of freedom, is a weird absurdity called “competing governments.” Accepting the basic premise of the modern statists—who see no difference between the functions of government and the functions of industry, between force and production, and who advocate government ownership of business—the proponents of “competing governments” take the other side of the same coin and declare that since competition is so beneficial to business, it should also be applied to government. Instead of a single, monopolistic government, they declare, there should be a number of different governments in the same geographical area, competing for the allegiance of individual citizens, with every citizen free to “shop” and to patronize whatever government he chooses.

    Remember that forcible restraint of men is the only service a government has to offer. Ask yourself what a competition in forcible restraint would have to mean.

    One cannot call this theory a contradiction in terms, since it is obviously devoid of any understanding of the terms “competition” and “government.” Nor can one call it a floating abstraction, since it is devoid of any contact with or reference to reality and cannot be concretized at all, not even roughly or approximately. One illustration will be sufficient: suppose Mr. Smith, a customer of Government A, suspects that his next-door neighbor, Mr. Jones, a customer of Government B, has robbed him; a squad of Police A proceeds to Mr. Jones’ house and is met at the door by a squad of Police B, who declare that they do not accept the validity of Mr. Smith’s complaint and do not recognize the authority of Government A. What happens then? You take it from there.

    The evolution of the concept of “government” has had a long, tortuous history. Some glimmer of the government’s proper function seems to have existed in every organized society, manifesting itself in such phenomena as the recognition of some implicit (if often nonexistent) difference between a government and a robber gang—the aura of respect and of moral authority granted to the government as the guardian of “law and order”-the fact that even the most evil types of government found it necessary to maintain some semblance of order and some pretense at justice, if only by routine and tradition, and to claim some sort of moral justification for their power, of a mystical or social nature. Just as the absolute monarchs of France had to invoke “The Divine Right of Kings,” so the modern dictators of Soviet Russia have to spend fortunes on propaganda to justify their rule in the eyes of their enslaved subjects.

    In mankind’s history, the understanding of the government’s proper function is a very recent achievement: it is only two hundred years old and it dates from the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution. Not only did they identify the nature and the needs of a free society, but they devised the means to translate it into practice. A free society—like any other human product—cannot be achieved by random means, by mere wishing or by the leaders’ “good intentions.” A complex legal system, based on objectively valid principles, is required to make a society free and to keep it free-a system that does not depend on the motives, the moral character or the intentions of any given official, a system that leaves no opportunity, no legal loophole for the development of tyranny.

    The American system of checks and balances was just such an achievement. And although certain contradictions in the Constitution did leave a loophole for the growth of statism, the incomparable achievement was the concept of a constitution as a means of limiting and restricting the power of the government.

    Today, when a concerted effort is made to obliterate this point, it cannot be repeated too often that the Constitution is a limitation on the government, not on private individuals—that it does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government—that it is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizens’ protection against the government.

    Now consider the extent of the moral and political inversion in today’s prevalent view of government. Instead of being a protector of man’s rights, the government is becoming their most dangerous violator; instead of guarding freedom, the government is establishing slavery; instead of protecting men from the initiators of physical force, the government is initiating physical force and coercion in any manner and issue it pleases; instead of serving as the instrument of objectivity in human relationships, the government is creating a deadly, subterranean reign of uncertainty and fear, by means of nonobjective laws whose interpretation is left to the arbitrary decisions of random bureaucrats; instead of protecting men from injury by whim, the government is arrogating to itself the power of unlimited whim—so that we are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.

    It has often been remarked that in spite of its material progress, mankind has not achieved any comparable degree of moral progress. That remark is usually followed by some pessimistic conclusion about human nature. It is true that the moral state of mankind is disgracefully low. But if one considers the monstrous moral inversions of the governments (made possible by the altruist-collectivist morality) under which mankind has had to live through most of its history, one begins to wonder how men have managed to preserve even a semblance of civilization, and what indestructible vestige of self-esteem has kept them walking upright on two feet.

    One also begins to see more clearly the nature of the political principles that have to be accepted and advocated, as part of the battle for man’s intellectual Renaissance.

    (December 1963)

    “The Nature of Government,” from The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand. Copyright (c) 1961, 1964, by Ayn Rand. used by permission of Dutton Signet, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.