Latest Threads
Greatest Threads
Home » Discuss » Journals » Nihil » Archives Donate to DU
Advertise Liberally! The Liberal Blog Advertising Network
Advertise on more than 70 progressive blogs!
Nihil's Journal - Archives
Posted by Nihil in Religion/Theology
Thu Dec 01st 2011, 09:29 AM
> Personally, I think that the idea of the soul comes partly out of the experience
> of self-awareness. Even today, it's difficult to see oneself as a set of physical
> or biological reactions on a par with everything else that goes on the natural
> world. Postulating a soul IMO is not too much different from saying that
> consciousness is a fundamentally different sort of thing from the physical world
> (and in truth, it's not really possible to explain very well).

The idea of the soul is a way to resolve the questions that occur to a conscious
creature in moments of introspection.
"What is noticing this sensation?"
"What is observing these feelings?"
"What is thinking these thoughts?"
"What is asking these questions?"

Of course, then religion sticks in its oar and uses it as a mean of extracting
money and/or extorting certain behaviours.

My use of the word "soul" is the first kind, not the church kind.
Read entry | Discuss (0 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Environment/Energy
Tue Oct 25th 2011, 03:29 AM
... even though this has been the standard term used for decades amongst
technologists & environmentalists alike.

45% "correctly defined" a new, ambiguous & fluffy term ("climate engineering")
that can be used to claim support for the "Technology will dig us out of the
shit without having to impact my consumption or convenience" approach instead.

Conveniently, this will be most definitely used in conjunction with one of
said projects ("Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering")
right up to the point when 40% of that 45% learn about the impact, the risks
and the downright stupidity of such unicorn fart "projects".

Read entry | Discuss (0 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Latest Breaking News
Thu Oct 20th 2011, 05:17 AM
... but yes, I believe that US exceptionalism is nonsense.

It is a very dangerous nonsense as it is supported by a
great number of jingoistic idiots who are verging on the
fascist in behaviour at times but it remains nonsense.

Americans are no better and no worse than anyone else.
They have the same mixture of fanatical right-wingers and
liberal left-wingers as any other arbitrary grouping of
the same number of people.

They have murderous sadists and self-sacrificing heroes.

They have exploitative capitalists and generous humanitarians.

The pretence that the basic nature of the human being changes
when an arbitrary nationality - a totally artificial construct,
unsupported by any scientific evidence - is draped over a
particular person is so utterly ridiculous that it provides
proof of the irrationality of those supporting its validity.

Bye bye Mr McCarthy.
Read entry | Discuss (1 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Environment/Energy
Wed Oct 19th 2011, 03:55 AM
For now, most people will simply not pay any attention.

After a while, they will write it off as "Just something happening
to foreign people in far off lands".

After a bit longer, they will start to notice the impact on
their own country and way of life.

By the time they are really paying attention, it will be too late
to do anything except watch in helpless despair as the inertia
involved with these changes is far greater than anything that can
be brought to bear to prevent the inevitable conclusion.
Read entry | Discuss (0 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Environment/Energy
Fri Sep 09th 2011, 04:03 AM
The "Threats" section in the Wiki entry is heartbreaking ...

In May 2007, for example, 31 pangolins were found aboard an abandoned vessel off the coast of China. The boat contained some 5,000 endangered animals.

... rescued over 100 pangolins as the animals were being smuggled out of the country, en route to China, where they were to be sold for cooking.

Customs in Vietnam seized 23 tonnes of frozen pangolin meat in a single week.

On December 22 of that year (2008), the officials seized around 5 tons of pangolin meat in the northern Quang Ninh province. Officials said that this meat came from 1,481 pangolins and suspected that the cargo was on its way to China.

2009, Malaysian police seized 40 live pangolins believed to have been brought illegally out of Indonesia and headed for cooking pots in the country.

2009, Malaysian wildlife authorities announced that they had rescued 130 pangolins and arrested two smugglers.

Customs officers in Guangdong, China, seized more than 7.8 tonnes of frozen pangolins and 1,800 kg of pangolin scales from a fishing vessel after it was stopped for inspection. 2090 Pangolins in total were killed.

Pangolins are also in great demand in China because their meat is considered a delicacy and some Chinese believe pangolin scales reduce swelling, promote blood circulation and help breast-feeding women produce milk.

The Guardian provided a description of the killing and eating of pangolins: "A Guangdong chef interviewed last year in the Beijing Science and Technology Daily described how to cook a pangolin: 'We keep them alive in cages until the customer makes an order. Then we hammer them unconscious, cut their throats and drain the blood. It is a slow death. We then boil them to remove the scales. We cut the meat into small pieces and use it to make a number of dishes, including braised meat and soup. Usually the customers take the blood home with them afterwards.'"

Truly fucking disgusting.

Read entry | Discuss (2 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Latest Breaking News
Tue Aug 30th 2011, 09:41 AM
... of hateful ignorant DUers.

Not interested in the truth (even though it's been pointed out time after time).

Not interested in justice (i.e., investigating the actual criminals after the
patsy was cleared).

Not interested in questioning your puppet-masters, your "leaders" and your
"defenders of freedom".

Just a redneck lynch mob, screaming and getting hard with thoughts of "vengeance" ...

"Team America Fuck Yeah!"

Read entry | Discuss (1 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Religion/Theology
Fri Aug 12th 2011, 11:50 AM
... as I don't have a dog in the fight about "True/False Christian" but, on
a related matter, one thing that pisses me off about that nutter is the way
that he has managed to get a lovely load of "guilt by association" dumped on
me and some of my friends via the (frequently posted) third picture in your

I can totally understand why some Christians would react in the "but he isn't
a *true* Christian" manner but, as strongly argued elsewhere, there simply
*isn't* a single consistent definition of "true Christian" to compare/contrast
with him.

Sadly, to paraphrase a comment upthread, all I as a Freemason can say about
it is not that "he isn't a *true* Freemason" (regardless of how I might feel
that way inside) but simply that "not all Freemasons are racist assholes and
there is nothing in Freemasonry that requires you to be a racist asshole".
I can find plenty of supporting evidence that many thousands of Freemasons
are individually not "racist assholes" but, as Breivik proves, there is also
evidence that at least one Freemason is a "racist asshole".

Read entry | Discuss (0 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Latest Breaking News
Thu Jun 09th 2011, 03:24 AM
> This is a massive problem for the human race over the next
> century, and then some.

I agree and it should be added to the list of massive problems
over the next century - climate change being the most massive for
the reason of scale alone. Overpopulation is probably the second
but at least that one is controllable by humans.

> Cancers are the extreme of how bad life can get.

I disagree. Cancers only come into play if there is no other cause
of injury/death before that. Thousands of people in Ethiopia aren't
dying of cancer - they're dying of starvation. 10,000+ Japanese
weren't killed by cancer a few months ago, they were killed by an
earthquakes and a tsunami. People in Afghanistan & Iraq aren't
being killed by cancer unless they manage to survive the bullets,
missiles, bombs AND the water/sanitation problems. The biggest
killer even in the "peaceful Western world" is heart disease and
the primary cancer that affects those privileged few is the self-
inflicted one from smoking - an optional luxury for those who
don't have to scrabble for food in a parched field, water in a
polluted puddle or watch their infants die from diseases easily
prevented by the cost of a single cigarette.

Yes, there are exceptions but - in general - cancer is a killer
only for people whose life is safe enough & healthy enough to have
to worry about the low end of the mortality risks.

Pretending that the outcome of Chernobyl, Fukukshima or whatever
suddenly puts cancer above such things is hyperbole and that is
what I criticised - not the rhetoric, logic, grammar or whatever
and not the basic premise that "spreading radiation around the
planet is a bad thing".

Read entry | Discuss (1 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Religion/Theology
Fri May 27th 2011, 10:52 AM
> 1) the link to the greater consciousness. Nobody can define this "GC" so I'm not
> asking that, but I'm intrigued by how the feeling that it exists (and perhaps that
> a person can get a momentary glimpse of or link to it) differs from that nice
> relaxed feeling we both mentioned. Subjective obviously but what mental or sensory
> signal tells you (generic you open to anyone) that you have gone beyond relaxation
> into connectedness? Obviously not expecting a chart of neurological inputs, but is
> it visual, auditory, emotional (a sense of happiness perhaps or even fear in the
> presence of something so awesome in the true meaning of the word)? Heightened or
> dulled external perception? What, in a nutshell, happens?

For me, it's not so much "going beyond relaxation" in a conscious or deliberate
fashion (e.g., by meditative practice or whatever) as an event that "just happens"
every once in a while.

Although it is so much more than just a visual "signal", it is as if a filter
is temporarily lifted such that even though my sight before (and after) the
event was not significantly deficient, I could suddenly perceive things with
a clarity that was way beyond anything I achieve outside of those times.
This is not just in a purely line of sight visual aspect (e.g., seeing more detail
on the far side of a valley) but also with a temporary dislocation of viewpoint,
literally being able to see things as if I'd moved my eyes, my subjective "camera",
across to a new position but without moving my body an inch. I could also "zoom in"
(for want of a better analogy) but not just to see things from closer but, to an
extent, through the external layers of the object as if they had become transparent.

To call this "sight" is not to capture the sensation - it is a full awareness - but
I am at a loss how else to present my experience.

Similarly, there have been tactile aspects to some of those moments but they
didn't (couldn't) involve any physical action of touching the items concerned.

I can't recall any particular auditory effect (except that I wasn't consciously
aware of other people around me but I can "shut out" the background noise in the
office when focussing on a tricky problem too so that's not particularly unusual).

Heightened perception is definitely part of it but it involved more than that
as the awareness of the connections, of the whole, was much larger than simply
the particular fraction that I was focussing upon.

The overriding "feeling" was one of "Of course! That's how it all hangs together!
How could I have ever forgotten it?" and that feeling stays for a short time after
the event itself but despite - or perhaps because of? - any attempt to recall the
entirety of what I perceived, it soon fades to a memory of the connectedness that
was briefly present.

The closest I've found (so far) of a description by others that matches my
impressions was in a couple of books by Colin Wilson where he quoted an extract
from a (Victorian?) doctor that resonates with my feelings on those occasions:

Directly afterwards there came upon me a sense of exultation,
of immense joyousness, accompanied or immediately followed by
an intellectual illumination impossible to describe.
Among other things ... I saw that the universe is not composed of
dead matter, but is, on the contrary, a living Presence;
The vision lasted a few seconds and was gone.

He phrases things in a more religious vein that I feel about it but maybe
that's just a difference in backgrounds. The doctor concerned went on to
write a book ("Cosmically Conscious"?) and collect other accounts of other
similar experiences. (I'll have a look later to fill in the details but I'd
noted down the above quote & origin a while back as it "rang a bell" with me).

(BTW, sorry that it sometimes takes me a while to respond to posts - if in doubt,
PM me to give me a nudge!)
Read entry | Discuss (1 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Religion/Theology
Wed May 25th 2011, 07:19 AM
... but here's my tuppenceworth anyway ...

> The context being that some say they are "spiritual but not religious" ...

I've used that phrase several times so the following is just my view on it.

> ... while it's often claimed nonbelievers necessarily deny any
> "spiritual" aspect.

AFAIR, I've not claimed that but, whilst I wouldn't expect them to use that
word, I also wouldn't be surprised if there is a similar "feeling" that they
ascribe to a different cause.

I partially agree with some of the posters upthread:
e.g., OHdem10 in #2
>> For many spiritual means an acceptance of a Deity along with individual
>> practice, prayer or meditation while avoiding formal religion (churches etc.)

I always associate the words "religious" and "religion" with the formal
and/or doctrinal organisations - whether extreme or moderate - and so don't
use the word to describe myself (as I am not a member of any such).

I would also differ in that "spiritual" (to me) doesn't necessarily imply
a Deity (although that may be the case for many individuals); I refer to
myself as a form of "Deist" or "Theist" in addition to "spiritual" as I see
the words as addressing different aspects of the situation.

e.g., digonswine in #3
>> It seems like that term does suggest stepping outside of what is
>> concrete reality- perhaps a connectedness to all things or all of
>> the universe(whatever that means).

I will sometimes use the word with regard to "otherness", not just the
"connectedness to all things" view but the wider application of "something
that doesn't currently map to my understanding of the world". (I'll leave
the debate over "concrete reality" for another time!)

So, to come back to your original suggestions/questions (again, all IMHO),
> A nice feeling caused by pondering the universe

Sometimes ... the pleasure of "wonder" at the different phenomena in the
universe (and the feelings engendered) comes into it - but isn't "all of it".

> or listening to Bach

Not necessarily (though it's nice in its own right, I differentiate between
such "niceness" and any feeling of "spirituality").

> or even just relaxing?

Not particularly (again it's nice in its own right)

> Some metaphysical but contingent link to a larger transcendant consciousness?

That's a large part of it for me (i.e., an awareness of a link to a larger
transcendant consciousness but without any great analysis of the nature of
the link). I feel that link but have no knowledge of why or how I do so ...
or even what either the "link" or the "consciousness" actually are. I read
a lot but (so far) still end up putting the experiences/feelings/thoughts of
the subject into a box labelled simply with a question mark or some other
equivalent of "For Further Review".

> How do we know when we are encountering the spiritual
> how do we tell the difference between the above feelings?
> Is there a difference?

And now we come back to subjectivity again (not to mention my lack of an
appropriate way to explain my feelings/reactions).

> Endorphins? Blood pressure and oxygenation? Synapses?
> Is there a physiological component at all and in which direction does
> the causal link go if at all?

There often seems to be a physiological component that seems to start
with a perception of some form and which results in a physiological
response (cf brain-scans of meditators, heart/breath rate linked to
the alpha state, electrical activity levels within the body) but whether
that is in fact the result (rather than the cause) or if it is even
the whole of the experience (rather than just the easily measurable parts)
is a huge question that can only get a big "I don't know" from me.

Read entry | Discuss (1 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Environment/Energy
Thu May 19th 2011, 05:44 AM
> The gas (petrol) lines and unemployment that resulted from the formation
> of OPEC and energy embargoes to the US?

Yes, I remember that along with walking to school in the dark (because
of power cuts when the coal miners decided to hold the country to ransom),
bringing wooden crates home to burn (to eke out the little coal we had)
and the introduction of natural gas from the North Sea for domestic use
(rather than the horrible smelly "town gas" / "coal gas").

I had little interest in the US at that point but my brothers (all much
older than me) explained about Vietnam and - even then - the international
intrigues dedicated to securing foreign oil supplies.

I was fairly unusual in my area at that time as I was very anti-coal.
I hated the ash. I hated the smoke. I hated the acid rain - shocked my
mum when I showed her how acidic the water was in our rain-wated butt.
The coal-miners and their dependent industries were a huge part of the
community though so it was always a "point of contention" when raised.

I was studying mainly science subjects and so could see the benefits of
nuclear power over coal, oil & gas but even then my favourite was hydro
(a visit to a major hydroelectic plant in Wales had a great effect on me).
I was fascinated to follow the development of the Dinorwig pumped station
(visited it much later - only completed in the mid-80s) and I wondered why
that type of "mega-battery" wasn't more popular. It was many years later
before I understood the economic aspects of such projects. It was much
later still before I gave up on hoping that the technological superiority
of the nuclear solution would ever surpass the innate greed, corruption
and stupidity of the humans in charge of its use.

Solar then was simply a novelty (unless you were in the space programme).
My earliest experience with that technology was saving up to buy a small
solar cell (selenium IIRC) from Tandy (=Radio Shack) that I wanted to replace
the battery in a small fan in my room. I knew that it would only work when
it was sunny but that was the only time that I wanted it to work anyway.
In practice, it wasn't that useful but I was still taken with the idea of
"turning sunlight into electricity".

Whilst I thought that Carter's solar panels on the White House were largely
a symbolic act, I was sad when Reagan removed them as that too was a symbolic
act but whilst the symbolism for the former was concerned with hope & potential,
that for the latter was most definitely a declaration of the control & power
of established industrial might over the alternatives to "the system".

Wind was good though (in the right places, even then) as it still powered
important rural items directly - little of the wasteful "conversion from
mechanical to electrical then transmission losses then conversion from
electrical to mechanical" cycle. Mind you, I lived in a large industrial
town then so days without wind were "good" as it stopped all of the crap
in the air from being blown in your face all of the time.

So yes, I remember being an energy consumer in the 70s and seeing the choices
that we had then. The choices that we have today are infinitely better (where
"goodness" is viewed from an ecological point of view, not simple monetary cost)
but we still have the same greedy, corrupt, short-termist, selfish humans
in charge (and, in large, in the population willingly voting for the death-knell
of so many species).

Read entry | Discuss (1 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Environment/Energy
Fri May 06th 2011, 10:29 AM
> Renewable energy IS a solid plank, there is no dispute on that that point,
> so your "fix" is meaningless.

My "fix" is necessary in order to accommodate Obama's love affair with coal
(usually under the pretence that it can be "cleaned" up).

I agreed (and agree) with you that it *should* be such a pillar (or plank)
of progressive energy policy but disagree that "there is no dispute on that
point" as the President himself disputes "that point" by his repeated support
of coal.

> and there are a LOT of people here who are sick of the right wing style attacks
> on discussions about this topic.
> If you have a problem with that let's hear it clearly stated.

I have a problem with the hypocrisy that you are exhibiting every single time
that you apply the "You're either with us 100% or you're against us" binary
thinking that characterises the very "right wing style attacks" that you are
pretending to deplore.

You repeatedly apply that rule to anyone who disputes any issue with you.

You repeatedly call people "right-wing", "conservative" and other smearing
terms when they dare to suggest that your opinion is not to be automatically
taken as some kind of received gospel.

THAT is what I have a problem with.
I hope you can "hear" it clearly this time.
Read entry | Discuss (1 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Latest Breaking News
Tue Apr 26th 2011, 11:43 AM
Most of it has been said already but how about this:

Now that it has been damaged by a mindless fanatic, it has
actually *gained* a value that it didn't have before - it is
now a silent witness of the stupidity of allowing religious
brainwashing to over-ride the sensible & rational reaction
that non-zealots have to the work.

Surely that is now a *gain* to the world of art rather than a loss?

It might be my opinion that its previous "value" was largely
an indictment of the gullibility of certain "art lovers" but I felt
no need to damage it - the worst that it got from me was being ignored.

Now it demonstrates daily some of the problems that the lack of such
tolerance can create:
- it was physically attacked for the apparent "crime" of simply existing;
- it requires additional security to be protected from other bigots;
- it hasn't been destroyed and so remains a mute reminder of the event;
- it highlights the fact that mindless vandalism isn't the preserve of
one religion but is a cancer that can pervert any arbitrary divisions.

Bringing such poisonous hatred into the light means that this piece
has achieved something by being damaged that it had never been able
to whilst intact.
Read entry | Discuss (0 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Religion/Theology
Thu Apr 21st 2011, 11:06 AM
... there is also the "tsunami" hypothesis which derives from
the memory/retelling of the effects of the Thera-generated
tsunami on the crossings around the delta at that time.

That also ties in with the pillar of fire by night and the pillar
of cloud/smoke by day (the luminous ash cloud above the erupting
volcano providing a navigational guide).

It can also be - slightly more tenuously - connected to most of the
plagues (e.g., darker skies from the ash-cloud with an excess of SO2
making the rain acidic as well as ash-filled, poisoning & colouring
the river, taking their toll on the crops, fish, livestock & people
alike and leading to "rebound" waves of pest species).

Yes, the evolved narrative has taken them out of order as well as
messing with the time-scale but that is basically the nature of such
folk-tales after a couple of generations of oral re-telling.

And if you *really* want to have fun, consider the problems that
were found both preceding and immediately following Akhenaton
(mentioned upthread) then tie the lot together with the influx
(and subsequent exit) of "a tribe" with significantly unEgyptian

Finally, consider that there may well have been more than a single
"Exodus" event involving monotheistic groups departing from Egypt.

Happy (whatever feast you wish to call it that is getting me a few
days holiday around the weekend starting in about an hour)!

Read entry | Discuss (0 comments)
Posted by Nihil in Environment/Energy
Thu Apr 07th 2011, 03:48 AM
Science is great at doing what it does: Learning about things.

Every single "technological problem" from space shuttle explosions
through GM crops to spewing oil wells (and yes, including failures
in nuclear power plants) has been down to greed: the people with
the political & financial power over-ruling the scientifically
backed technologists & engineers in order to save time & money
by cutting one corner too many.

Laying that blame at the foot of science is wrong.

Laying it at the foot of honest yet uneducated people is also wrong.

The people who deserve the blame (and yet who *never* get punished)
are the ones who make the decision to "compromise" for the sake of
increased short-term profit (usually financial but often political),
knowing that by doing so they are risking the entire venture (and
any successors).

Read entry | Discuss (0 comments)
Random Journal
Random Journal
Home  |  Discussion Forums  |  Journals  |  Campaigns  |  Links  |  Store  |  Donate
About DU  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
Got a message for Democratic Underground? Click here to send us a message.