Saturday, December 31, 2005

Tom Cruise's Science

I kept hearing that Tom Cruise and Matt Lauer shared a tense moment in a Today interview, but I had never seen it, so I went to to look. From there, as I'm sure Cruise and others had hoped, I went to some Scientology websites to see what's going on.

It didn't take long to find the appeal of Scientology to people like Cruise and John Travolta.

I should say first that I know a little philosophy, and I have one of my own, which I was able to put together and refine without the help of L. Ron Hubbard or others who put conclusions before the evidence. I was actually surprised that Scientology appears to be part self-help (in the pop-culture manner), part dubious medical conclusions (like the one about vitamins having a measurable effect on health of the average person, which has never been established scientifically), part bio-feedback (with the help of an electronic device, no less), part eugenics, part elitism, and with a purposeful avoidance of those tenants of conventional religion that would tend to turn off individualists and egotists. Like all other religions, there are things in it that are true, though usually not for the reason they tell you, and there are most certainly tenants that are demonstrably in error. I suppose it's no worse than Christianity in that regard.

But I discovered early on what I suspect is the real appeal of Scientology for celebrities like Cruise and Travolta; it's best explained by the following passage from the official Scientology website:

"We instinctively revere the great artist, painter or musician and society as a whole looks upon them as not quite ordinary beings. And they are not. They are a cut above man. He who can truly communicate to others is a higher being who builds new worlds."

Gee, do you think Tom Cruise might believe this crap? Of course he does.

When are people going to realize that true freedom of the mind comes only from rejecting the very concept of rigid, arbitrary belief systems, especially those that embrace the idea of a God who, in some way or another, is limiting that freedom with his supposed desires?

Friday, December 30, 2005

On a Theory of Psychic Powers

I saw an interview this morning with a "psychic" who has been used by police to solve crimes, and it reminded me of a theory I've held for a long time concerning them.

After speaking about the case this psychic "solved," the interviewer asked her for her impressions on two high-profile unsolved cases from the last year: Natalie Halloway's disapperance in Aruba, and the case of a man who disappeared from a cruise ship. The psychic said she hadn't really thought about it much, but did have psychic feelings about both cases nonetheless. Halloway, she said, was dead, or she would have contacted her parents by now. There was more than one man and a yacht involved, and she was on the yacht. Of the man who disappeared from the cruise ship, the psychic claimed to "see" that he went overboard.

As you can see from these examples, it doesn't take a psychic to realize that this one (and all of them) are simply making educated guesses based on what little is known. She doesn't say anything about Halloway that the police and others had not already speculated, and it's not hard to guess that a boat might be involved in a place like Aruba. As for the man's disappearance on the cruise ship, going overboard is pretty much the only possible answer. I or anyone could have guessed these things.

But, having said this, I don't think that most psychics are purposely being deceitful, and here's why: Inside their own heads, they are mistaking what normal people call "flashes of insight" with a psychic experience. They just don't realize that everyone's brain makes subconcious conclusions which flash into the mind's eye. Normal people think nothing of it (like, "hey, I just figured something out), but so-called psychics think it's something unique and special (like, "hey, I just had a psychic vision"). But it's the same thing. The only difference between a psychic and a non-psychic is that the non-psychic realizes that his own insight is the product of subconscious thought and observation, while a psychic thinks the same thing is a supernatural process.

In short, psychics are too stupid even to understand their own mind, and yet we're using these people to help solve crimes. Give me a fucking break.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Spying on Us

I was watching the local news in Orlando, and they presented a story on the NSA domestic spying scandal. Part of that was to interview local people to get their views, but the question they asked betrayed a distressing lack of understanding of the issue.

Those interviewed in the story each gave their opinion about whether it was ever okay to spy on American citizens, and it went both ways. One man said civil liberties concerns were "ridiculous," because he and his neighbors were not terrorists and therefore had nothing to hide. A woman answered that Bush was doing a "swell" job and people should just get off his back. Both of these people are clearly idiots, but that's another story.

Here's the real problem with the NSA scandal: There is a secret court which grants warrants for spying on Americans. If Bush or anyone else in the government really has a legitimate reason for spying on anyone, that court would certainly grant a proper warrant for that (if it's a legitimate reason, why wouldn't they?). The fact that Bush is purposely bypassing that court, and going ahead with spying anyway, can only mean that there is not a legitimate reason to be gathering that intelligence.

I don't know about you, but I don't think the government should be invading someone's rights and privacy without a reason that would satisfy a court. And that, my friends, is why it's illegal and very, very scary.

Rice's Problem

So Condoleeza Rice comes on Meet the Press today and defends, as she always has, the Iraq war. But this time she tells Tim Russert that even though Saddam didn't have the weapons we thought he did, he was still a threat and "it was time to take him out."

This is a serious problem with the Bush Administration and Rice herself. The fact is that Saddam was NOT a threat that required hundreds of thousands of troops and a decade-long committment costing hundreds of billions of dollars to fix. The time we started the war was of our own choosing--there was nothing external that happened to convince us that "it was time."

If Rice thinks she's going to run for president, I hope the people will remember the constant stream of pro-Bush bullshit (and much of it is bullshit) that has spewed from her mouth over the past few years, and act accordingly.