A Plague of Locusts in My Brain

I have heard that Ken B. and rob are going for a hike in the mountains. I decide to put a stop to their stream of repetitive comments once and for all: I sneak up onto a path above them, and, as they pass, I cause an avalanche to descend upon them, killing them.

Now, avalanches happen without anyone intending them. And my defense attorney will surely bring that point up at my trial: yes, it is interesting to know that there are other possibilities than "Gene killed them" at play.

1) But what would be nonsense for him to argue would be, "Ah, Gene didn't kill them! It was an avalanche that killed them!"

Because everyone involved agrees there was an avalanche. The question is, "What started the avalanche?" Of course there was some physical cause of their death; what we want to know to reach a verdict was "Did someone intend that cause?"

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In the Bible, when God is trying to persuade the Pharaoh to "let my people go," one of the things he does is to send a plague of locusts to Egypt. The UN Human Rights Commission puts God on trial for violations of the Geneva Conventions committed against the Egyptian people. God claims that plagues of locusts occur without His intending to exercise His wrath on anyone. And this is a good point in His defense!

But if in His defense rebuttal of our case, God says, "I didn't engage in aggression against the Egyptians: it was a plague of locusts!" then His defense is similarly absurd to 1) above: Everyone agrees that there was a plague of locusts! The question at hand is, "Did you, Jehovah, send this plague, similarly to how Gene sent an avalanche down to smite the heads of Ken B. and rob?"

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Hildegard of Bingen reports God sent certain visions her way. She decides to put God on trial at the anarcho-capitalist Nuremberg trials for NAP violations, since she didn't ask for these visions, and they were sent directly into her brain, causing migraine-like symptoms.

God responds, "No, I didn't send any visions: your brain was just in a certain state!"

God's defense here is obvious nonsense: everyone agrees that Hildegard's brain entered certain unusual states. The question is, "Did you, God, send a communication to Hildegard that caused her brain (against her will!) to enter these states?"

And if God notes that similar brain states occur without Him (apparently) sending messages to anyone, that is interesting, but certainly does not prove His innocence, any more than does my lawyer's noting that many avalanches occur without human intervention prove my innocence.

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Now, the final turn of the screw: Let us say that, in 1), there are a number of jurors who were convinced, well before the avalanche or the trial, that Gene doesn't exist: No one that outlandish could be real! For them, the trial was over before it started: no non-existent entity can kill someone! So for them, it is a great relief to hear that avalanches occur that are not caused or intended by any person. They can put their minds at ease: "We don't need to consider the possibility that this ridiculous figure Gene exists! It was just an avalanche!"

Of course, this is not really relevant to the case at all: all sides agree that an avalanche occurred! The fact that there was an avalanche is not any evidence one way or the other as to whether or not Gene murdered Ken B. and rob. What is going on here is that these jurors prior conviction that Gene doesn't exist made them favor any explanation that does not involve this fictitious "Gene" figure.

11 comments:

  1. First: holy crap Block is nuts! The Fed chairman as a perpetrator of great crimes is hilarious.

    Second, why can't the same criticism about prior convictions not be turned against you? If an argument is devastating to both sides, then it's probably a dubious one.

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  2. Well, if there was a total lack of evidence for Gene's existence it would weaken the theory that he had started the avalanche , wouldn't it ?

    But if Gene didn't exist I'm sure that someone would eventually have to invent him anyway.

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    1. That's right. Since no one has been discussing any being for whom "there is a total lack of evidence" for its existence, that is hardly relevant.

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    2. Aaargh! You did it again, and I fell for it. The question on the table was, "If Hildegard was having migraines, does this in someway discredit the idea she was having inspired visions?"

      You lost on that one, so what you have done (per usual) is *switch the topic* to: is it likely that God exists?

      I can't believe I bit!

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    3. Gene, if you look at my comments on the earlier posts you will find I never said I anything to indicate that I thought the answer to "If Hildegard was having migraines, does this in someway discredit the idea she was having inspired visions?", was "yes" so not sure how I "lost". (My replies were rather based on trying to understand what evidence might qualify as weakening the inspired visions claims, and after reading this post I realized that LACK of evidence for a divine agent might do this. Note: I am not saying whether I think there is such a lack of evidence or not)

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    4. "Gene, if you look at my comments on the earlier posts you will find I never said I anything to indicate that I thought the answer to "If Hildegard was having migraines, does this in someway discredit the idea she was having inspired visions?", was "yes" so not sure how I "lost".'

      Rob, just cut the crap!

      We all know what you were trying to argue.

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    5. To restate the gist of my comments once more:

      While Hildegard having migraines does in itself not discredit the idea she was having inspired visions, if we knew more about the causes of migraines and the process by which its symptoms (such as apparent vision seeing) arise, then its possible that this understanding would weaken the case for the visions being divinely inspired (if, for example, strong evidence was found to support the view that all known cases of migraine-related vision-seeing were actually caused by something non-divine).

      This seems like such an uncontroversial thing to say I'm a bit surprised I'm copping so much flak for saying it.

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    6. Rob, you get flak for NOT PAYING ATTENTION, AT ALL, TO A SINGLE LICK OF WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN!

      " if we knew more about the causes of migraines and the process by which its symptoms (such as apparent vision seeing) arise, then its possible that this understanding would weaken the case for the visions being divinely inspired "

      No it wouldn't, no it wouldn't, no it wouldn't!!!!!! That is what EVERY single argument I have made here has been showing!

      If the neurological processes by which hearing occurs become known in the most intricate detail, this does not "weaken" the case that what I hear might be someone trying to tell me my shoe is untied.

      So please, just stop: you are not "engaging" my comments AT ALL: you just completely ignore them, and say the same thing over and over!

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  3. Gene, surely you can see that appealing to "brain-stately powers" to explain everything we think or perceive is even better than Moliere's fictional physician explaining the effects of opium by referring to dormitive powers.

    Of course, if the physician was a decent scholastic, he knew he was at the beginning and not the end of an explanation. Or to put in another way, the "brain-stately" people have even less of an argument than Moliere's supposed scholastic.

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  4. I love reading these analogies without knowing what the original discussion was that inspired them. It's fun.

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