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Comment: Re:do they have a progressive view? (Score 0) 328

by Zordak (#46791393) Attached to: Detroit: America's Next Tech Boomtown
I don't know what you think you're responding to, but that I do not favor Democrats most certainly does not mean I'm a Republican. The GOP is only marginally more conservative than the DNC, and only on some issues. They are all the party of big government and statism, and both parties are rotting from within from graft and corruption. But the trope about Texas being a haven of racist, ignorant rednecks is most certainly a Democrat thing that the OP obviously bought. (It's amusing to watch, considering how intensely racists so many Democrats are.) It's bad enough to have to deal with Rick Perry-style crony Republicanism here in Texas. A bunchy of left-wing Democrats who want even bigger government would only make things worse, so the OP is free to stay wherever he is. He won't be missed.

Comment: Re:do they have a progressive view? (Score 0) 328

by Zordak (#46788867) Attached to: Detroit: America's Next Tech Boomtown

I would die first before moving to texas. most of my friend also feel the same.

That's fine with us. We'd just as soon you not come.

the outright racism and bible-belt feel just is not compatible with many techies' view of what a good living area should offer.

I like how you gobble up tropes fed to you by your Democratic overlords, and then accuse others of bigotry. It's cute.

Comment: Re:Militia, then vs now (Score 1) 1581

by Zordak (#46770647) Attached to: Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

So the five extra words of the proposed amendment can't hurt, now can they? ;-) If there's a process for it...

If you can get the amendment passed, then it is by definition constitutional. I'm not a big fan of either the 16th or 17th Amendments, but the federal income tax and direct election of senators are both absolutely constitutional to even the most hard-line strict constructionists.

Comment: Re:Militia, then vs now (Score 2, Insightful) 1581

by Zordak (#46770087) Attached to: Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

The point is that technological advancement in the press allows for information to reach more people more quickly, and that makes society better.

Have you ever heard the expression "the pen is mightier than the sword"? It's not just a pithy one-liner. The press can be used to influence the thinking of many people. The reason a large militia gathered in Nevada was because the event got press. It doesn't matter how many guns Cliven Bundy had, of what caliber, or magazine size, he could not have turned away a heavily-armed federal police force of 200 people by himself. The press is much more powerful, for good or ill, than firearms by themselves. Technological advancements have only made it that much more powerful. That's why oppressive governments have to control both the firearms and the press. You can't effectively control one without controlling the other.

Technological advancement in armaments allows for bullets to reach more people more quickly, and that makes society worse.

Why? Because you say so? I live in Texas, and feel relatively secure from home invasion because criminals here know that any given home in Texas has a good chance of being well armed with modern, effective firearms. That's not to say that violent home invasions never happen here, just that they happen quite a bit less. Compare that to Australia, where the government confiscated all the guns to keep people safe, and violent home invasions skyrocketed. And since you seem to think that gun-free places are safer, consider how quickly these senseless mass shootings would end if more people were armed. Take the recent one in Fort Hood. Would that guy have been able kill and injure so many people if we didn't disarm our own soldiers (who are well trained in handling firearms) on their home bases? Instead of hiding helplessly, the victims could have quickly taken the guy down and not been victims. I personally find it very disconcerting that the only thing standing between a crazy gunman and an elementary school is a piece of paper that says it's illegal to carry a gun on campus. The gunman doesn't care about that law, but he knows that the campus is full of lawful citizens, which means he knows he will be the only person who is armed there. You don't see a lot of mass shooting rages at the NRA convention, or at your local Bass Pro Shop.

If you are personally afraid of guns, that's your business. I'm not going to try to force you to own one. But you have not convinced me that I would be better off living in a society where law-abiding citizens are disarmed.

Comment: Re:Does this mean no more Gnome desktop? (Score 0) 689

by Zordak (#46750931) Attached to: The GNOME Foundation Is Running Out of Money

For many years, Gnome was the most popular desktop environment. Many of the people who got into Linux on the desktop moved into a Gnome environment. It provided a familiar UI with standard metaphors. While the Linux desktop has moved on for better or worse, the fact remains that it was Gnome that provided the soft landing for many when they jumped ship.

Pay some respect to those who went before and the work they did.

Gnome was, from the beginning, about politics first and technology second, It fell victim to the same bone-headed narrow focus that still plagues the FSF. Gnome came about not because anybody really needed it or asked for it, but because Miguel de Icaza was hot and bothered about the GPL. Its sole purpose was to be the anti-KDE (which was already usable, and based on a solid widget framework), because Stallmanites wanted to get their sanctimony on about Qt being distributed under a license that wasn't "free enough" for Richard Stallman and his fawning groupies. It was popular because the priesthood of the FSF got Red Hat to buy into their religion, which means that it was the default for many people's first Linux installs. It always felt a little bit fatter, uglier, slower, and clunkier than KDE. Its leaders were also always firm in their belief that they knew what you wanted better than you did, long before the "Gnome Shell" fiasco. I tried it once or twice in the 2.x days, and was really annoyed that there wasn't even a straightforward way to edit the stupid menu---evidently a deliberate design choice. It was like Apple, but worse. In short, Gnome was what you get when you cross the hubris of Steve Jobs with the hubris of Richard Stallman. I will not miss it.

Comment: Re:Knowledge (Score 1) 1037

by Zordak (#46715225) Attached to: How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion
I have told you already that my faith influences my view of the evidence. If I know something is true by direct, personal experience, naturally that will color my view of circumstantial evidence that implies it may be false. Are you self-aware enough to admit that you are doing the exact same thing? You have decided that a book you have not read is false, and so you accept without question evidence of that falsehood. Any evidence that supports the Mormon narrative you dismiss, without examining it, as the work of apologists. Yet, if as you say, atheists, other Christians, Muslims, etc., become convinced of the Book of Mormon, would they not then become apologists, and in your view lose all credibility? What source could convince you, then? But more to the point:

If the evidence stands on its own it should also be endorsed [by a bunch of people].

Nonsense. Our claims are far too extraordinary for people to be convinced by mere circumstantial evidence. To wit:

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. ... When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

What circumstantial evidence will convince you that a 14-year-old boy saw God the Father and Jesus Christ and that they spoke to him? None. The only way to test the truth of that claim is to go to mormon.org, have a couple of missionaries come by your house with a Book of Mormon, read it, and try the experiment contained in its very own pages. (What have you got to lose?) If you then learn that the book is its own best evidence, then it follows that Joseph Smith was the prophet he claims to be, because good fruit does not come from a poisoned tree. Everything else is just window dressing.

Comment: Re:Knowledge (Score 1) 1037

by Zordak (#46711141) Attached to: How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion

but my point is that outside of that experience the other evidence doesn't stand up, the evidence supporting Mormon story is nowhere near strong enough to convince a non-believer

And right there you have hit on the exact point.

To circle back to the point of the article I think some people think the evidence around the stories is solid, and that's a big part of the reason they believe. The Internet exposes them to strong counterarguments, when they realize the stories don't stand on their own that damages their faith as a whole.

To be clear, I do think the evidence stands up to scrutiny, as long as you look at all the evidence. It's not that I'm afraid of academic debate. I would not be ashamed to build a hypothetical court case to try to an impartial jury (as if there is such a thing) in favor of my faith. I am confident that I could convince an impartial jury, by a preponderance of the evidence, that I am right. But as you point out, that evidence would fall far short of producing in my jury the kind of conviction that would lead them to commit their entire lives to a cause. When we speak of faith, we do not speak of blind belief. Faith is a vital force that leads to "being doers of the word, and not hearers only," and that fundamentally changes men and women internally. "Preponderance of the evidence" doesn't cut it. It's an interesting academic exercise, but ultimately worthless to producing any kind of meaningful, vital faith.

To the point of the original article, I have personally known several former Mormons who have left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints over stuff they read on the internet. And I myself have learned many things as an adult that I did not know as a child, when my faith was still nascent. Confronted with those things, I had to ask myself honestly, "Do I still believe this?" The incontrovertible answer to me was (to return to our analogy), "Yes, this is definitely a tree. I have seen it and felt it. I have tasted its fruit. It is what it claims to be." In my opinion, that is also why so many leave when confronted with difficult questions. It's not that the evidence is so totally compelling, or that it can't be answered. It's that they have not had the deep, personal, individual experiences. They have relied on their parents' faith, or on momentum, or on social pressure, but they have never tasted the fruit personally, or if they did, they did not recognize it. Lacking that individual witness, they begin to feel they have been deceived, and that makes them angry. This is why we send missionaries out armed not with scholarly articles on the Egyptological basis of the Book of Abraham (for that you might try Hugh Nibley's An Approach to the Book of Abraham, but rather with blue paperback Books of Mormon. Their message is not, "Here are a bunch of evidentiary points that support the Book of Mormon," it is "Here is the book itself. It contains God's word. It was translated by Joseph Smith, who saw God the Father and Jesus Christ [not as part of a tree analogy, but with his physical eyes; a claim I do not make], and who was a prophet. If you want to know if the book is what it claims to be, read the book itself. It contains a promise you can test---that if you will personally read it, ponder on it, and then ask God if it is true, he will manifest the truth of it to you." This "manifestation" is the other sense I spoke of, one that we all have, and one that we have probably all experienced at some point, but that we must sensitize ourselves to.

Thus, to your point:

You don't believe the Books of Mormon and Abraham are factual because they stand on their own, you believe because they're endorsed by your faith which you believe for other reasons.

I would say quite the opposite. The books stand entirely on their own, because I have experienced the value of what's in them. I don't need an outside authority to tell me what to think about them. From that context, the story of where they came from and how they came to be is certainly interesting, but ultimately secondary. If I give you an apple and you eat it and find that it tastes good, the apple stands on its own. It tastes good regardless of where or how I got it. The apple is good even if you discover that the tree has some curious and unfortunate blemishes in the bark (we do not claim infallibility for our prophets or our members). The apple is good despite the latest cutting-edge research in biochemistry that has convinced many people who have never tasted an apple that they do not taste good. But you are correct that once I know the apple tastes good, that will color my perception. I will believe that the blemishes are only surface blemishes, because a tree that is not fundamentally sound cannot produce good fruit (i.e., Joseph Smith was not perfect, but neither was he an adulterer). If the latest research concludes that the apple can't taste good ("Cosmologists have discovered X about the CMBR, totally disproving God!!!"), I will not have a crisis of faith and think I must be wrong about the apple, because I have tasted it, and continue to taste it every day.

Comment: Re:Knowledge (Score 1) 1037

by Zordak (#46704779) Attached to: How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion
I'm not looking for an argument. You asked a question. I answered it. I will do so again, but please understand that I do not expect to convince you, because whatever I say, you will find a counterargument to. I will answer your remaining questions, but I'm not going to get dragged into a debate, because there is nothing to debate.

So the explanation for the translating being completely wrong is the author wasn't actually writing Egyptian?

No, you misunderstand. Joseph purchased several papyri. They got passed around, sold, re-sold, lost, damaged, found again, re-purchased. So we have only scraps and fragments of those papyri Joseph purchased. We don't know which papyrus the Book of Abraham came from, and we don't know if that papyrus is among the surviving ones. The only one we definitely still have that definitely shows up in the Book of Abraham is fragments of one drawing. What he published in the Book of Abraham matches the remaining scraps as far as they exist. There are some features of the drawing that Egyptologists claim are "wrong," but they are saying the drawing is "wrong" because it does not match a classical Egyptian funerary drawing. The point is it's not supposed to match. It's a variation of an Egyptian funerary drawing used to tell a different story. As far as the text, Joseph's process of re-translating the Bible is instructive. He worked from and compared different versions of the Bible (he favored Luther's German Bible), but there are also large passages that he received as direct revelation. The existing text was more a jumping-off point. This is in contrast to the Book of Mormon, which he translated directly without interpolation.

Except for some reason we can't actually see the trees (I'm not sure what you mean by seeing them).

Let me put it a different way. If a blind man came to you and tried to prove to you there are no trees, you would not be swayed. You tell him you have seen the trees, and he says he has not. You take him out and let him feel the bark of a tree. He says he has it on good authority that what he is feeling is corrugated iron. He says he has never seen wood furniture, or leaves, or fruit at the market.

And yet his limited experience does not and cannot negate your experience of actually seeing trees. He is simply lacking a sense that you have. God is not a theoretical construct to me, just as trees are not to you. Joseph Smith is not an exercise in "what if." What he did is a fact. The first and best evidence of what he did is the Book of Mormon itself. Returning to our tree analogy, I have seen the tree and personally picked fruit from the branches of that tree and tasted it. So your cleverest argument that it is not a tree, but rather a papier mache imitation of a tree built by a charlatan carries no weight with me. Even if you happen to find what you believe to be a scrap of newspaper or a dab of plaster near the tree, that does not change the fact that I know from personal experience that it is, in fact, a tree.

I promise you, I am much more intimately familiar with this tree than you are. If it were a fraud, I would know it, because I have examined, analyzed, picked apart, and scrutinized it with all the same senses you possess. But what's more, I have seen and tasted it with senses you inherently possess but have not refined enough to be sensitive to them.

And that is why there is nothing to debate. Every time you bring up some point you think is damning evidence of a fraud, I see only a distraction; at best a "Hmm. Well, that's something I don't know yet." The Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham are their own best evidence of what they claim to be. Trying to prove or disprove them by indirect methods is a pointless exercise in futility that will convince neither side.

Comment: Re:Knowledge (Score 1) 1037

by Zordak (#46686799) Attached to: How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion

How do you rationalize Smith's behaviour with the gold plates that nobody but him ever saw, and when the transcriber "lost" the translations (to see if Smith actually did have a source document from which he could reproduce the same translation) Smith then provided a different translation.

As pointed out below, there were witnesses, and in fact Martin Harris (who lost the manuscript) was one of them.

How he translated some Egyptian scrolls into the Book of Abraham, but the scrolls in question have nothing in common with what Joseph Smith translated.

Only fragments of the original papyri have survived. The only part of the papyri that are reproduced directly in the Book of Abraham are two drawings, only one of which survives in part, and the most interesting and controversial parts are not among the scraps that have survived. Egyptologists have argued that the drawings are "wrong,*" but that's actually kind of the point. The author used a variation on the Egyptian funerary drawing to illustrate a story. As for the text itself, that may have come from a separate papyrus that did not survive, or Joseph may have received it as a direct revelation as he did many other passages of scripture. To me, how Joseph got from the papyri to the extant text is not so interesting as the text itself, which I have found to be extremely valuable.

*Some Egyptologists charge that Joseph merely interpolated his own fantastical but incorrect ideas onto the drawings. But the originals were, in fact, on display for a while when Joseph himself had them. Nobody reported then that they were incomplete or that there were any differences between the published drawings and the displayed versions, despite the fact that Joseph had many enemies who were eager to discredit him.

What about the claim that Native Americans are a lost tribe of Israelites, something proven false.

The Book of Mormon does not claim that Native Americans are, as a body, a "lost tribe." It claims that a group of people came from Jerusalem and settled here. They weren't the only ones to do so. But in any case, to say that it is definitively "disproven" that a group of Israelites lived in the Americas is ascribing to the archaeological and genetic sciences greater certainty than even their practitioners credibly can. We have found genetic links between certain Indian tribes and Mongols. That's very interesting and exciting, but does not prove or disprove anything related to the Book of Mormon.

I'm just curious, I'm sure you're aware of these counterarguments, how do you deal with them?

About how you would deal with it if I laid out to you my theory for how I have disproved the existence of trees. You'd look at it and think, "That's interesting, but I know there are trees, because I've seen them. So I suspect there is something missing in your argument."

Comment: Re:Knowledge (Score 1) 1037

by Zordak (#46685755) Attached to: How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion

I think that there is a question as to whether the three witnesses are reliable or not. ;)

Why? Because you don't personally like what they say? What makes them less reliable than any other person? What vested interest did they have in lying for Joseph Smith? If they had one, what interest remained when all three eventually broke with Smith, left the church, and still adamantly maintained the truth of their testimonies? Why did two come back to the church, in abject humility, begging forgiveness from Brigham Young? Why did Martin Harris, the one who did not come back, defend his testimony as true in the most vehement terms to his dying day?

In the real world... that hasn't happened, because they're not descended from there, all the evidence shows that Native Americans came from Asia, migrating across the Bering Strait. It's just 50 miles across the ocean there, it's many thousands of miles the other ways.

Who is "they"? Although many Mormons (erroneously, in my opinion) believe that the Book of Mormon is a record of people that spanned all over North and South America, the Book itself does not say that, and that idea is beginning to wane in popularity. Indeed, the official (but non-scriptural) introduction to the Book of Mormon used to claim that the people were the "primary" ancestors of the American Indians, while it now merely claims that they are "among" their ancestors. As an educated Mormon, I find the idea of the Book of Mormon spanning all of North and South America absurd and inconsistent with evidence internal to the Book itself. I personally believe they were limited primarily to the Yucatan. Any unique genetic markers that tie them back to Jerusalem (not Egypt) would be significantly attenuated by this point after 3,000 years of intermingling with other people. If such a marker were found, it would neither prove nor disprove anything to me, because I don't believe Native Americans of any variety are a homogeneous race. There is plenty of other historical and archaeological evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon. I find it all interesting and always love to learn more, but I do not base my testimony of that Book on such evidence. The Book of Mormon is a volume of scripture, not a history. I have personally tested and proved its value as scripture many, many times. The historical context is mostly interesting scenery that enriches my enjoyment in reading, but is subject to adjustment as we gain new evidence.

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