This is great!!

This is a great illustration of what pilots were taught about scanning outside the cockpit. They were told to scan the horizon for a short distance, stop momentarily, and repeat the process.  Many remember being told why this was the most effective technique to locate other aircraft.  It was emphasized repeatedly to not fix your gaze for more than a couple of seconds on any single object. The instructors, some of whom were WWII veterans with years of experience, instructed them to continually “keep your eyes moving and your head on a swivel” because this was the best way to survive, not only in combat, but from peacetime hazards (like a midair collision) as well.

They basically had to take the advice on faith (until they could experience for themselves) because the technology to demonstrate it didn't exist at that time.

       http://www.msf-usa.org/motion.html

A theory of chronic pain

H/T Francisco G.

I don't agree or disagree yet – I merely present it as an interesting article.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Theory of Chronic Pain


A social and evolutionary theory of human disease and chronic pain

By Denis G. Rancourt

We like to nurture a species self-image where we are radically different from ants and bees. The idea goes like this. Ants and bees are automatons completely governed by chemical and physical signals and each individual in the colony has its place which determines its physical body characteristics, adapted to the function of its class.

We distinguish these colony insects from mammals which we project have much higher degrees of individuality. We like to think of herds or packs of mammals as individuals who “choose” to come together and cooperate. We generally don’t admit body characteristics of individuals as being associated with class in societal dominance hierarchies. 

But humans, primates and ants and bees may be much closer than we care to admit, then we are easily able to perceive.

There is an area of scientific research which points to just how wrong we may be. It is the study of the effects of a dominance hierarchy on the health of the individual. It turns out that in mammals and birds, for example, the health of the individual, barring accidents of nature, is primarily due to the individual’s position in the society’s dominance hierarchy [1][2][3]. Here, one needs to stress “primarily”, as in by far the greatest determining factor — having a direct bio-chemical and physiological impact [1].

The dominance hierarchy in packs of monkeys, for example, determines fertility, resistance to disease, vigour, and longevity of the individual [1].

Now the dominance hierarchy as individual health determinant discovery is a paradigm-establishing discovery in medicine (if medicine is ever able to recognize it! [3]), akin to plate tectonics in the Earth sciences, Newtonian mechanics in physics and evolution in biology, but it naturally leads to a follow-up question: Why?

Is there an evolutionary advantage, for mammals say, to suffer severe individual health effects from the intra-species dominance hierarchy? Otherwise, how has individual health vulnerability to dominance hierarchy survived on the evolutionary time scale? Is there a use or a need for individual health vulnerability to dominance hierarchy in terms of species survival, or is it simply a remnant of pre-insect-divide or colony-forming cells evolution?

A first glance would suggest that the human species, for example, cannot possibly benefit from having individual health materially and negatively affected by society’s dominance hierarchy. But is this the correct conclusion?

I think not.

What is the most successful nervous-system-bearing animal species on Earth, in terms of both number of individuals and total biomass, and in terms of its transformative impact on the biosphere? Answer: Ants [4]. And the most successful large mammal? Humans [5]. Both live in highly hierarchical societies.

What is the sustaining biology of a highly hierarchical society of mammals? The individual must accept his/her place. All-out competitiveness of equal individuals (like a bar fight) is a recipe for disaster and does not lead to a highly stratified hierarchy. Pumped individuals who are and feel equally strong do not spontaneously organize into a stratified dominance hierarchy.

The built-in individual health vulnerability to dominance hierarchy is the biological (bio-chemical-metabolic) mechanism that sustains a positive feedback able to spontaneously generate a highly stratified dominance hierarchy.

If you are and feel sick from being dominated, you are not going to fight back. You are going to accept your place. The species is happy to have hoards of unhealthy individuals who will die young having spent their days doing the grunt work. What better way to stratify a successful species?

The impact on individual health also plays another key role, in addition to providing the feedback for stratification. It provides a needed mechanism of self-destruction for individuals who grow out or fall out of docility and compliance.

In a highly stratified society, individuals who cannot function must be eliminated, or they become a destructive force against the hierarchy. The police and jails would never be enough to achieve this without the built-in individual health vulnerability to dominance hierarchy.

As soon as the individual wants out and senses that there is no out, the individual self-destructs — rather than go on a destructive rampage, most of the time. This is called cancer and heart disease. It prevents the destructive rampage of the disillusioned individual and provides a natural end at the completion of the individual’s cycle of utility to the hierarchy, to the species.

No wonder anarchists are so few and far between! But as with any positive feedback-driven system, it is inherently unstable [6].

Endnotes

[1] “The influence of social hierarchy on primate health (Review)” by Robert M. Sapolsky, Science, vol.308, p.648-652, 2005. (and references therein)
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/308/5722/648.abstract

[2] “Anti-smoking culture is harmful to health — On the truth problem of public health management” by Denis G. Rancourt, 2011.
http://activistteacher.blogspot.com/2011/04/anti-smoking-culture-is-harmful-to.html

[3] “Is establishment medicine an injurious scam?” by Denis G. Rancourt, 2011.
http://activistteacher.blogspot.com/2011/11/is-establishment-medicine-injurious.html

[4] “Is the burning of fossil fuel a significant planetary activity?” by Denis G. Rancourt, 2010.
http://activistteacher.blogspot.com/2010/08/is-burning-of-fossil-fuel-significant.html

[5] “Collective intelligence does not imply individual intelligence — Technology does not come from geniuses” by Denis G. Rancourt, 2011.
http://activistteacher.blogspot.com/2011/11/collective-intelligence-does-not-imply.html

[6] “Institutions build hierarchy between politico-cultural re-normalizations” by Denis G. Rancourt, 2011.
http://activistteacher.blogspot.com/2011/11/institutions-build-hierarchy-between.html

Closing the Strait of Hormuz

I have no idea what the US government is talking about when they say they won't allow Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz.  Iran can close this waterway in an hour.  There are only two shipping lanes and the water is VERY shallow.  Theoretically the lanes belong to Oman, but that is disputed by Iran.  They could just anchor a few dozen empty oil drums along the shipping lanes.  They'd look like mines and no one would transit the strait.  Then the US would send in minesweepers and right behind them the Iranians would dump more oil drums.  Hard to call that an act of war within ~12 miles of their coast.

Or they might throw in one or two real mines – or launch a torpedo at an oil tanker from a small boat at night and SAY it was a mine.  That would be it.  No ships would dare go through.

Someone told me yesterday words to the effect that the Iranian threat to close the Strait is great because it gives the US an excuse to attack them and remove their nuclear capability.  Great thinking.  Really. I suppose the Chinese will keep loaning us 2 BILLION dollars a day to fight Iran and bail out Wall street and the European banks while our citizens happily starve to death. 

That won't work.  Iran either HAS a nuclear capability now, or it could borrow a few from it's neighbor, PAKISTAN, which we thoroughly pissed off.  Even our puppet leader Karzai of Afghanistan says he'd fight against us.  But it won't work for purely logistical reasons.  Iran borders the entire Strait of Hormuz.  They can drive freakin' pickup trucks with Exocet missiles up and down the coast and knock off ALL the damn shipping in the strait.

Strait_of_hormuz_full

Re: An open letter to the Hawaii County Council.

No, I wasn't there.   You would probably have seen me.  The entire neighborhood had mechanical problems and, while I am not a mechanic, I can pull my griend's lunch wagon when his truck blows up.  Then I built a 24' flagpole and am flying the stars and bars, 24/7 until we own our own country again.


Those pimps at the County Council will do stupid things like ban plastic bags – but their homes have PVS pipe.  Their water hoses are PVC .  Each ten-foot length will make about 200 bags.  They are too stupid to make the connection. Where do they think THAT goes?  Everything EVERYONE owns has, almost without exception, a major plastic component.  But they choose to ban the one useful item needed in a wet climate.  Next it will be plastic wrap and PVC pipe.  Aitomobiles will have t  I would end up yelling at them.  I don't deal well with stupid.

On Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 19:55, robert petricci <nimo1767@gmail.com> wrote:

I testified today were you there?….

On Tue, Dec 20, 2011 at 4:18 AM, TC Burnett <tcburnett@gmail.com> wrote:
I intend to testify on Wednesday.  This is my prepared statement.


(1) Ladies and gentlemen, with all due respect. I come before you today to provide a reality check.  The fact exists that it is implicit in the Hawaiian culture to be respectful and not say things people don't want to hear.  But, sometimes, that fails as a strategy.  It does so today, when the government goes off on the wrong track and either politeness or political ideology propels the train off the cliff instead of stopping it.

(2) We all, and it is not a secret, understand that each of you believe you were elected because of your great campaigning abilities and your vision of the future of Hawaii County.  Some were elected because they believe their districts are not getting it's fair share of the pie, and you want more pie.  That is the nature of politics.

(3) However, there is another open secret in this county.  You, and EACH of you, were elected, not for your sterling abilities, of which I do not doubt.  You were elected to get rid of the person you replaced because of the pitiful job they did. That is the reality.

(4) Further, this is a County Council, not a jury or a parole board.  Your job is to make the lives of the people you serve as easy as possible and grace them with all of the benefits of liberty and the pursuit of happiness you can.  Your job is NOT to sit behind closed doors and try to find ways to make life more unpleasant for the citizens.  Simply being elected does not mean you automatically gain superior knowledge and become infallible – it merely means you are temporarily less repugnant to the voters than someone else – and you aren't going to change the world, or mitigate the corruption endemic in Hawaiian politics.

(5) As an example:  Unless I am badly mistaken, we are gathered here today to consider, among other things, the mandatory removal of plastic grocery – and, presumably, trash bags, eventually, from the citizens of the rainiest city in the United States.  Logic dictates that this is one of the places the use of such bags should be mandated.  The simple fact is that neither cloth, which absorbs water and molds, nor paper, which disintegrates in water, nor any other reasonably available substance will allow a person – especially a single mother with children – to shop for a family and get the groceries home in the rain.

I come from a generation in which paper bags were all that was available. The complaint then was that their use destroyed the forests. That is still true.  But I also remember the nightmare of trying to get a cart full of groceries, in paper bags, into my mom's car in the rain.  The bags broke and we lost a lot of food, not to mention making a huge mess in the parking lot and in my car.  Then, when we got home, the bags had melted completely, and it was almost impossible to get the food inside – ESPECIALLY things that were not canned.  Cereal, for instance.  Pasta.  Fresh bread.  It was all ruined.

(6) Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to think about where you are and what you are proposing.  This is not El Paso, Texas.  Look outside.  Go to the store and buy groceries for your family.  Ask for 'paper'.  Then try to get it home.  This is of the few places in the country where plastic is necessary, and should be mandated – and you want to ban it for impractical and non-sensical ideologies.  Then, after a rainy winter, you think you will be re-elected because of brilliant decisions like this one.

(7) In closing, I thank you for your time and leave you with a thought.  You have exactly the same power here to repeal the ridiculous actions of the people you replaced as you do to make yet more ridiculous choices which will cause you to be replaced in turn.  Please consider repealing laws, not making new ones all the time.  There are too many laws and we are not criminals. Until you pass another law. I seem to recall that a law was passed banning smoking in a car containing a minor.  Watch the police drop their kids at school.  They are smoking in the car.  What was accomplished?  Almost the entire council was tossed out.  Learn when to say 'when'. 

 

A hui hou, kakoa

Thomas C. Burnett
PO Box 2051
Pahoa, HI 96778
 



On Mon, Dec 19, 2011 at 21:25, Edward Gutteling <egutteling@gmail.com> wrote:

Sent thru the ether

Begin forwarded message:

From: Conservative Forum Hawaii <forumhawaii@gmail.com>
Date: December 19, 2011 6:30:01 PM HST
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Plastic Bag Ban : last gasp

Conservative Forum Banner.jpg

 
CONFORHAWAII.COM

Dear Forum:

We have one last chance to persuade our County Council NOT to go ahead with Pete Hoffman's plastic bag ban.
Your help is needed. If everyone adds a voice, the impact will be felt.  Recent public feed-back has been very much against this law, and momentum is building.
Most councilmen have re-election on their minds, and are sensitive to the people's voices.

The next and final council meeting on this is Wed, 21 December.
Please let them know how you feel, immediately, by sending them an email or fax. (Too late for US mail.)
Mr. Pilago is the key swing vote, and he can indeed be influenced for the better.

Please do NOT let this drop.
It is just like the “broken window” theory of police work: allowing small crimes to go unpunished,  like breaking windows, leads to massive larger crimes becoming common.
Allowing even the small loss of liberties to go unchecked inevitably leads the ratchet to go only one direction towards our loss of even greater liberties.
This has got to stop, and you can and must help.

Our position as conservatives is that this bag ban law is another unwarranted micro-management of our lives that should not be the purview of our elected officials.
We also feel all the arguments by the progressive activists pushing this are all wrong, and the net effect would actually be harmful.

  • We feel that litter is a behavioral problem, not an item problem. For example, we cannot reduce car accidents by banning just Toyotas.
  • Plastic bags will be replaced by paper, which is less environmentally kind than plastic, takes even more landfill room, and actually introduces more carbon into the air than plastic bag production and use.
  • Plastic bags do NOT contribute any significant content to the vast mass of sea-borne plastic debris.
  • NO scientific studies show plastic bags are a significant harm to wildlife. None. Only a very few, rare, isolated and over-hyped photos contradict this, not any real science.
  • Plastic bags will be replaced by paper, or re-usable bags, which are much less useful for the full spectrum that bags are currently used for (transparent, cheap, light, and water-proof)
  • Paper bags will be more expensive than plastic, costs that the poorest among us can afford the least.
  • Our government should be making life easier and cheaper, not harder and more expensive.
  • These sorts of details of daily life are for individuals to decide, NOT the nanny-state government. Personal liberty is again lessened by this ban.

Time to take a stand and STOP this sort of bad government behavior. If not, they will just continue and repeat this again and again. It started with light bulbs and low-flow toilets and shower heads, and many more items. Next up: banning all Styrofoam.

Your help is needed !

Councilmen Blas, Smart, Hoffman and Ford are all in favor of the ban.
Councilmen Onishi, Yoshimoto and Ikeda are all against the ban

  • Smart, Hoffman and Ford are committed progressives, who WANT to micro-manage everyone's lives, and feel it is the purpose of government to do so.
  • Blas has gone against all the conservative principles that he claimed to possess when we evaluated him pre-election, and this is just the latest example. It is clear he was not honest with us about his approach to government, does not care about saving tax payers additional expense (bond issues), nor on personal liberty issues nor on making our lives less costly and easier.  Despite the fact that his district (Puna) has the highest poverty rate on the island, he will vote for this ban and so raise the cost of living for all his constituents anyway. He just doesn't care about that.)
  • Yagong opposes this bag ban for all the reasons we have listed, but as the company he works for uses bags in their business, he feels voting would be a conflict of interest in this case, and so will not cast a vote.
  • Pilago has voted for the ban previously, but may be persuaded by the logic of the arguments against it to change his vote.

aloha

Hawaii County Council contacts 2011.jpg

90% of success is showing up.  Getting the math right is the other 50%.

-T
Aut viam inveniam aut  faciamaut viam inveniam aut faciam.
-Hannibal


90% of success is showing up.  Getting the math right is the other 50%.

-T
Aut viam inveniam aut  faciamaut viam inveniam aut faciam.
-Hannibal


An open letter to the Hawaii County Council.

No, I wasn't there.   You would probably have seen me.  The entire neighborhood had mechanical problems and, while I am not a mechanic, I can pull my griend's lunch wagon when his truck blows up.  Then I built a 24' flagpole and am flying the stars and bars, 24/7 until we own our own country again.

Those pimps at the County Council will do stupid things like ban plastic bags – but their homes have PVS pipe.  Their water hoses are PVC .  Each ten-foot length will make about 200 bags.  They are too stupid to make the connection. Where do they think THAT goes?  Everything EVERYONE owns has, almost without exception, a major plastic component.  But they choose to ban the one useful item needed in a wet climate.  Next it will be plastic wrap and PVC pipe.  Aitomobiles will have t  I would end up yelling at them.  I don't deal well with stupid.

On Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 19:55, robert petricci <nimo1767@gmail.com> wrote:

I testified today were you there?….

On Tue, Dec 20, 2011 at 4:18 AM, TC Burnett <tcburnett@gmail.com> wrote:
I intend to testify on Wednesday.  This is my prepared statement.

(1) Ladies and gentlemen, with all due respect. I come before you today to provide a reality check.  The fact exists that it is implicit in the Hawaiian culture to be respectful and not say things people don't want to hear.  But, sometimes, that fails as a strategy.  It does so today, when the government goes off on the wrong track and either politeness or political ideology propels the train off the cliff instead of stopping it.

(2) We all, and it is not a secret, understand that each of you believe you were elected because of your great campaigning abilities and your vision of the future of Hawaii County.  Some were elected because they believe their districts are not getting it's fair share of the pie, and you want more pie.  That is the nature of politics.

(3) However, there is another open secret in this county.  You, and EACH of you, were elected, not for your sterling abilities, of which I do not doubt.  You were elected to get rid of the person you replaced because of the pitiful job they did. That is the reality.

(4) Further, this is a County Council, not a jury or a parole board.  Your job is to make the lives of the people you serve as easy as possible and grace them with all of the benefits of liberty and the pursuit of happiness you can.  Your job is NOT to sit behind closed doors and try to find ways to make life more unpleasant for the citizens.  Simply being elected does not mean you automatically gain superior knowledge and become infallible – it merely means you are temporarily less repugnant to the voters than someone else – and you aren't going to change the world, or mitigate the corruption endemic in Hawaiian politics.

(5) As an example:  Unless I am badly mistaken, we are gathered here today to consider, among other things, the mandatory removal of plastic grocery – and, presumably, trash bags, eventually, from the citizens of the rainiest city in the United States.  Logic dictates that this is one of the places the use of such bags should be mandated.  The simple fact is that neither cloth, which absorbs water and molds, nor paper, which disintegrates in water, nor any other reasonably available substance will allow a person – especially a single mother with children – to shop for a family and get the groceries home in the rain.

I come from a generation in which paper bags were all that was available. The complaint then was that their use destroyed the forests. That is still true.  But I also remember the nightmare of trying to get a cart full of groceries, in paper bags, into my mom's car in the rain.  The bags broke and we lost a lot of food, not to mention making a huge mess in the parking lot and in my car.  Then, when we got home, the bags had melted completely, and it was almost impossible to get the food inside – ESPECIALLY things that were not canned.  Cereal, for instance.  Pasta.  Fresh bread.  It was all ruined.

(6) Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to think about where you are and what you are proposing.  This is not El Paso, Texas.  Look outside.  Go to the store and buy groceries for your family.  Ask for 'paper'.  Then try to get it home.  This is of the few places in the country where plastic is necessary, and should be mandated – and you want to ban it for impractical and non-sensical ideologies.  Then, after a rainy winter, you think you will be re-elected because of brilliant decisions like this one.

(7) In closing, I thank you for your time and leave you with a thought.  You have exactly the same power here to repeal the ridiculous actions of the people you replaced as you do to make yet more ridiculous choices which will cause you to be replaced in turn.  Please consider repealing laws, not making new ones all the time.  There are too many laws and we are not criminals. Until you pass another law. I seem to recall that a law was passed banning smoking in a car containing a minor.  Watch the police drop their kids at school.  They are smoking in the car.  What was accomplished?  Almost the entire council was tossed out.  Learn when to say 'when'. 

 
A hui hou, kakoa

Thomas C. Burnett
PO Box 2051
Pahoa, HI 96778
 

On Mon, Dec 19, 2011 at 21:25, Edward Gutteling <egutteling@gmail.com> wrote:

Sent thru the ether

Begin forwarded message:

From: Conservative Forum Hawaii <forumhawaii@gmail.com>
Date: December 19, 2011 6:30:01 PM HST
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Plastic Bag Ban : last gasp

Conservative Forum Banner.jpg

 
CONFORHAWAII.COM

Dear Forum:

We have one last chance to persuade our County Council NOT to go ahead with Pete Hoffman's plastic bag ban.
Your help is needed. If everyone adds a voice, the impact will be felt.  Recent public feed-back has been very much against this law, and momentum is building.
Most councilmen have re-election on their minds, and are sensitive to the people's voices.

The next and final council meeting on this is Wed, 21 December.
Please let them know how you feel, immediately, by sending them an email or fax. (Too late for US mail.)
Mr. Pilago is the key swing vote, and he can indeed be influenced for the better.

Please do NOT let this drop.
It is just like the “broken window” theory of police work: allowing small crimes to go unpunished,  like breaking windows, leads to massive larger crimes becoming common.
Allowing even the small loss of liberties to go unchecked inevitably leads the ratchet to go only one direction towards our loss of even greater liberties.
This has got to stop, and you can and must help.

Our position as conservatives is that this bag ban law is another unwarranted micro-management of our lives that should not be the purview of our elected officials.
We also feel all the arguments by the progressive activists pushing this are all wrong, and the net effect would actually be harmful.

  • We feel that litter is a behavioral problem, not an item problem. For example, we cannot reduce car accidents by banning just Toyotas.
  • Plastic bags will be replaced by paper, which is less environmentally kind than plastic, takes even more landfill room, and actually introduces more carbon into the air than plastic bag production and use.
  • Plastic bags do NOT contribute any significant content to the vast mass of sea-borne plastic debris.
  • NO scientific studies show plastic bags are a significant harm to wildlife. None. Only a very few, rare, isolated and over-hyped photos contradict this, not any real science.
  • Plastic bags will be replaced by paper, or re-usable bags, which are much less useful for the full spectrum that bags are currently used for (transparent, cheap, light, and water-proof)
  • Paper bags will be more expensive than plastic, costs that the poorest among us can afford the least.
  • Our government should be making life easier and cheaper, not harder and more expensive.
  • These sorts of details of daily life are for individuals to decide, NOT the nanny-state government. Personal liberty is again lessened by this ban.

Time to take a stand and STOP this sort of bad government behavior. If not, they will just continue and repeat this again and again. It started with light bulbs and low-flow toilets and shower heads, and many more items. Next up: banning all Styrofoam.

Your help is needed !

Councilmen Blas, Smart, Hoffman and Ford are all in favor of the ban.
Councilmen Onishi, Yoshimoto and Ikeda are all against the ban

  • Smart, Hoffman and Ford are committed progressives, who WANT to micro-manage everyone's lives, and feel it is the purpose of government to do so.
  • Blas has gone against all the conservative principles that he claimed to possess when we evaluated him pre-election, and this is just the latest example. It is clear he was not honest with us about his approach to government, does not care about saving tax payers additional expense (bond issues), nor on personal liberty issues nor on making our lives less costly and easier.  Despite the fact that his district (Puna) has the highest poverty rate on the island, he will vote for this ban and so raise the cost of living for all his constituents anyway. He just doesn't care about that.)
  • Yagong opposes this bag ban for all the reasons we have listed, but as the company he works for uses bags in their business, he feels voting would be a conflict of interest in this case, and so will not cast a vote.
  • Pilago has voted for the ban previously, but may be persuaded by the logic of the arguments against it to change his vote.

aloha

Hawaii County Council contacts 2011.jpg

Re: When your thirteen year old daughter is home alone…..

Wankers. 
That’s the problem w/ today’s youth, no pride in their work.
No proper villain flees from a pink single-shot .22 !

Sent thru the ether

On Dec 20, 2011, at 4:17 PM, TC Burnett <tcburnett@gmail.com> wrote:

Kudos to my killa friend Patty!  YOUR daughter may die.  MINE WON’T!


http://gunssavelives.net/self-defense/video/11-year-old-girl-defends-home-with-22-rifle/

90% of success is showing up.  Getting the math right is the other 50%.

-T
Aut viam inveniam aut  faciamaut viam inveniam aut faciam.
-Hannibal


Well…is there?

Is there a God (revisited)?

December 2, 2011 – from The Straight Dope

Dear Cecil:

Know what I think about your answer [to the question of whether there’s a God]? (I mean, besides the fact that it was a load of soft-pedaling quasi-theistic horseshit?) I think the subtext suggests we have a case of Antony Flew-ism here. [The late philosopher was a longtime atheist who embraced deism late in life.] You’re of the age when one starts hanging one's hopes on there being a god after all, and just don't give as much a damn about the rational truth as you once did. Old age and death are scary. They're the great unknown. So much so, they've driven more than one lifelong unbeliever into the arms of religion. Now, I don't pretend to know what your position on the god question used to be, or even is now. But you’re at least in your 60s, and given how ruthlessly factual and rational you have always been in answering other weighty matters, and how mushy and indulgent towards theism you were on this question, I personally detect something of a soft spot, a chink in the armor, probably related to a desire for there to be Something Beyond.

Cecil replies:

Cyninga, you surprise me. The proper reaction, on encountering some seemingly uncharacteristic example of Straight Dope logic, is not to conclude that Cecil has gone soft. Rather, it’s to humbly ask: What subtle gambit is the Master up to that I’ve unfortunately failed to grasp? This would then be followed by the necessary hours, days, or if need be years of patient reflection until the concept got through one’s thick head. Let’s consider the argument presented in our previous outing on this subject:

1. The medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas reasoned that the universe must have a First Cause, to which he assigned the name God.

2. Modern physicists in their way are likewise in search of a First Cause.

3. If the physicists succeed, one taking the Thomistic view of things might reasonably call that First Cause God.

The callow intellect might erroneously deduce from the above that the God so construed is the benevolent deity of Western religious tradition who invites us to join him in paradise. However, on further study, or actually if you were paying any fricking attention at all, you would notice that your columnist has described the posited entity as “an impersonal, abstract, and frankly mechanistic God.” What solace I or any other doddering creature might derive from such a being is a mystery to me. Indeed, to even characterize it as a being is to grant it way too much, something I’ll get back to in a mo.

One may ask: why call it God at all? Two reasons. First, entertainment value. It’s easy to argue God doesn’t exist, and all sorts of knuckleheads have done so. I could have rehashed their well-worn arguments, but how much fun is that? Second, unlike knee-jerk atheism, accepting that there could be a God provides us with an opportunity for an instructive exercise: if in fact there's an Almighty, what’s it like?

Thomas Aquinas, good monk that he was, persuaded himself that God had the familiar attributes of the Christian deity — free will, perfect knowledge, infinite power, and so on. Much of his reasoning is ingenious but absurd. For example, he purports to demonstrate that God consists of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, which adherents of religions other than Christianity will find risible.

So let’s set all that aside and focus solely on Thomas’s idea that God is the First Cause — and remember, this is the core idea of one of the world’s foremost religious thinkers. A useful proxy for the First Cause is energy, which has a number of qualities commonly ascribed to the divine. The laws of thermodynamics tell us that energy is neither created nor destroyed, and thus presumably is immortal. Einstein’s famous equation E=mc² suggests energy can be transmuted into matter and vice versa, and so may be said to be the wellspring of all creation, just as God is.

Yet no one thinks energy bears any resemblance to God in the traditional religious sense. It has neither knowledge nor will. It’s not a person. It doesn’t summon us to paradise or command us to embrace the good and shun evil. It provides our lives with no meaning. It’s just there.

By this route we arrive at a fuller understanding of whether God exists. Can we identify some fundamental principle or essence at the root of the universe and define that as the deity? Sure. Does doing so provide us with grounds for belief in a benevolent, all-knowing Creator? Clearly not. In short, by acknowledging the possibility that God in some esoteric sense exists, which was the point of my original column, we show that God in the popular sense probably doesn’t. To put it another way, the more closely we examine arguments for the existence of God, the more surely traditional belief in the deity slips from our grasp.