The Watering Hole; Friday April 24 2015; Mark Twain’s Insights

“I believe our Heavenly Father invented man because
he was disappointed in the monkey.”
(Mark Twain in “Eruption”)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I don’t know who it was that first came up with that little bit of ingeniousness, but it sure does hit the spot every now and then. Following are a handful of quotes by Mark Twain that I found and saved about the time Bush decided to invade Iraq. What struck me was that it takes only familiarity with today’s events, perhaps with a word change here and there, to make the entire of the intervening century disappear.

The first excerpt is from “A Pen Warmed Up in Hell: Mark Twain in Protest”. Change the word ‘Pacific” to ‘Middle East’ and ‘Philippines’ to ‘Iraq’ and . . .

“(I used to be) a red-hot imperialist. I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific … Why not spread its wings over the Philippines, I asked myself? . . . I said to myself, “Here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American Constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which we had addressed ourselves.

“But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.

“It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”

Next, a snippet from Twain’s “Letters From the Earth” (Letter vii) which for some odd reason tends to remind me of any number of our present day’s wingnut religionistas:

“I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos. A man got religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate. The priest said, “Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him.” The man studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations. He tricked his wife into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life; he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea; he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for life; and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him. Then he reported to the priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.”

And from “Glances at History,” Twain’s opinion on the slogan Our Country, right or wrong in “Letters from the Earth”:

“Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object – robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused this change? Merely a politician’s trick – a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: Our Country, right or wrong! An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every schoolhouse in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor – none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, “Our Country, right or wrong,” and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that the phrase is an insult to the nation?”

Finally this, also from “Letters From the Earth”:

“But it was impossible to save the Great Republic. She was rotten to the heart. Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons. The government was irrevocably in the hands of the prodigiously rich and their hangers-on; the suffrage was become a mere machine, which they used as they chose. There was no principle but commercialism, no patriotism but of the pocket.”

Welcome to 2015 and beyond, everyone. Also, thanks to Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens; November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910) for his insightful vision.

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P.S.: OK, can’t resist. One more quickie:

“Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven. . . . The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.” (Mark Twain, The Lowest Animal essay; 1897)

The Watering Hole; Thursday February 19 2015; Dawkins

The other day I ran across a packet of randomly collected “old” quotes by Richard Dawkins, all of which he spoke prior to October, 2006. Upon re-reading them, it struck me — given today’s ever-increasing religious radical and anarchist ideologues both here at home and ‘over there’ — how infinitely more timeless is science when compared to those wild-eyed religious fundamentalists one runs across regularly these days.

Dawkins has a lot to say, and though he says extremely well, he doesn’t take up a whole lot of bandwidth in the process. Still, as John Locke once offered, “It is one thing to show a man that he is in error, and another to put him in possession of truth.” Here’s Dawkins carrying out both those tasks at once.

“There is just no evidence for the existence of God. Evolution by natural selection is a process that works up from simple beginnings, and simple beginnings are easy to explain. The engineer or any other living thing is difficult to explain but it is explicable by evolution by natural selection. So the relevance of evolutionary biology to atheism is that evolutionary biology gives us the only known mechanism whereby the illusion of design, or apparent design, could ever come into the universe anywhere.”

“People brought up to believe in faith and private revelation cannot be persuaded by evidence to change their minds. No wonder religious zealots throughout history have resorted to torture and execution, to crusades and jihads, to holy wars and purges and pogroms, to the Inquisition and the burning of witches.”

“For a long time it seemed clear to just about everybody that the beauty and elegance of the world seemed to be prima facie evidence for a divine creator. But the philosopher David Hume already realized three centuries ago that this was a bad argument. It leads to an infinite regression. You can’t statistically explain improbable things like living creatures by saying that they must have been designed because you’re still left to explain the designer, who must be, if anything, an even more statistically improbable and elegant thing. Design can never be an ultimate explanation for anything. It can only be a proximate explanation. A plane or a car is explained by a designer but that’s because the designer himself, the engineer, is explained by natural selection.”

“A delusion is something that people believe in despite a total lack of evidence. Religion is scarcely distinguishable from childhood delusions like the “imaginary friend” and the bogeyman under the bed. Unfortunately, the God delusion possesses adults, and not just a minority of unfortunates in an asylum. The word ‘delusion’ also carries negative connotations, and religion has plenty of those.”

“The beauty of Darwinian evolution is that it explains the very improbable, by gradual degrees. It starts from primeval simplicity (relatively easy to understand), and works up, by plausibly small steps, to complex entities whose genesis, by any non-gradual process, would be too improbable for serious contemplation. Design is a real alternative, but only if the designer is himself the product of an escalatory process such as evolution by natural selection, either on this planet or elsewhere. There may be alien life forms so advanced that we would worship them as gods. But they too must ultimately be explained by gradual escalation. Gods that exist ‘ab initio’ are ruled out by the Argument from Improbability, even more surely than are spontaneously erupting eyes or elbow joints.”

“Most scientists use the term God in the way that Einstein did, as an expression of reverence for the deep mysteries of the universe, a sentiment I share.”

“‘Religious’ physicists usually turn out to be so only in the Einsteinian sense: they are atheists of a poetic disposition. So am I. But, given the widespread yearning for that great misunderstanding, deliberately to confuse Einsteinian pantheism with supernatural religion is an act of intellectual high treason.”

“The first cause cannot have been an intelligence — let alone an intelligence that answers prayers and enjoys being worshipped. Intelligent, creative, complex, statistically improbable things come late into the universe, as the product of evolution or some other process of gradual escalation from simple beginnings. They come late into the universe and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it.”

“Even before Darwin’s time, the illogicality was glaring: how could it ever have been a good idea to postulate, in explanation for the existence of improbable things, a designer who would have to be even more improbable? The entire argument is a logical non-starter, as David Hume realized before Darwin was born.”

“Natural selection is so stunningly powerful and elegant, it not only explains the whole of life, it raises our consciousness and boosts our confidence in science’s future ability to explain everything else. Natural selection is not just an alternative to chance. It is the only ultimate alternative ever suggested. . . . Natural selection is an anti-chance process, which gradually builds up complexity, step by tiny step.”

“[E]volution is a predictive science. If you pick any hitherto unstudied species and subject it to minute scrutiny, any evolutionist will confidently predict that each individual will be observed to do everything in its power, in the particular way of the species – plant, herbivore, carnivore, nectivore or whatever it is – to survive and propagate the DNA that rides inside it.”

“We explain our existence by a combination of the anthropic principle and Darwin’s principle of natural selection. That combination provides a complete and deeply satisfying explanation for everything that we see and know. Not only is the god hypothesis unnecessary. It is spectacularly unparsimonious. Not only do we need no God to explain the universe and life. God stands out in the universe as the most glaring of all superfluous sore thumbs. We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can’t disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, like those other fantasies that we can’t disprove, we can say that God is very very improbable.”

Richard Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and the author of nine books, including The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker and The Ancestor’s Tale, and The God Delusion.

I can’t help but compare Dawkins’ theses with those of various well-known and self-proclaimed ‘religious’ spokesmen such as Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer, David Barton, Mike Huckabee, Bill Donahue, Rick Santorum, Jimmy Bakker . . . the list is endless even though the total amount of intelligent thought that emanates from said crowd wouldn’t be enough to dampen the inside of a dry thimble. Dawkins, meanwhile, summarizes the essence of life and its origins in a few paragraphs. The contrast is stunning. I am, however, not at all surprised — and I seriously doubt that John Locke would be surprised either.

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Sunday Roast: February 10, 2013 – Reading List

Good Morning, All. And shhhhhh… them wolfies are asleep, so read in silence and tell us what you think in comments, but shhhhhh…

Economy:

WITH the financial crisis over and the recovery gaining momentum, one big piece of unfinished economic business hangs over Barack Obama’s second term: arresting the relentless rise in America’s already sky-high debt. He is turning to the task with what seems an improbable claim: that the job is closer to completion than people appreciate. (read on)

More Economy:

Do we have a solid economic recovery underway? (read more)

Austerity sucks:

The debt crisis is finally catching up with wind energy, once a fast-growing sector in Europe. After more than a decade of double-digit growth, austerity, rapidly changing energy policies and skittish investors are putting a damper on the industry. (read more)

Science:

We’ve only just wiped the sweat from our brow following the averted Mayan apocalypse, but already news is spreading of another impending doom; and this one even has actual science behind it. (read more)

Wisdom:

Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.Benjamin Franklin 

This is our Open Thread, Add your wisdom!

Watering Hole: December 20, 2010 – Profound Quotes and Something Special

Some profound statements:

“You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.”  ~Navajo Proverb

“Believe those who are seeking the truth.  Doubt those who find it.”  ~Andre Gide

“You’ve got a lot of choices.  If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you’re not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice.”  ~Steven D. Woodhull

A few quotes from Will Rogers:

“An economist’s guess is liable to be as good as anybody else’s.”

“Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate, now what’s going to happen to us with both a House and a Senate?”

“Do the best you can, and don’t take life too serious.”

A few quotes from Mark Twain:

“A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.”

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living.  The world owes you nothing.  It was here first.”

“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.”

A few quotes from the Dalai Lama:

“Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.”

“Love and kindness are the very basis of society.  If we lose these feelings,
society will face tremendous difficulties; the survival of humanity will be
endangered.

“We find that if a person lives a very selfish life and is never concerned about the welfare of others, he will have few friends, and people will not take much notice of him.  At the time of his death, there will not be many people who will regret his passing.  Some deceptive and negative persons may be very powerful and wealthy, and therefore some people- for economic reasons and so forth- might portray themselves as friends, but they will speak against such person behind their back.  When these negative person die, these very same “friends” may rejoice at their death.

“On the other hand, many people mourn and regret the death of a person who is
very kind and always altruistic and who works for the benefit of others.  We
find that altruism, as well as the person who possesses it, is regarded as the friend of all, and it becomes the object of veneration and respect by others.”

And finally, my favorite quote from the tab on a Yogi Tea bag….

“Be so happy that when others look at you they become happy, too.”

This is today’s Open Thread.  Do you have any opinions on the above quotes or do you have a favorite quote that you would like to share?  It is a free for all so Speak Up!

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