Category Archives: Straw Puppy

Waving at reality from a safe distance

My plan was to return to this today — the claim that the human population of the Earth is substantially less than 7 billion. Before we get to the main course I learnt something that was only a little surprising: the crypto-fascist and terrorist-supporter Vox Day is into moon-landing conspiracy theories. The links are at the bottom of the post for reference. The first is a recent link to a video by a guy called Owen Benjamin. Vox has been pushing this guy’s videos recently because he was a former supporter of Jordan Peterson who has since decided that Peterson is satanic. The video is rambling and poorly argued — not worth watching as there’s nothing new there and its interspersed with homophobic tangents. Vox’s scepticism about the moon landings is older though and he links to a position he’s had on them since at least 2006.

“I tend to support the faked Moon landing theory myself, not because of any particular detail, but simply based on the theory that if the Official Story is that we landed there, then we probably didn’t. This mysterious disappearance tends to support that… it’s intriguing to see how tapes, videos and recordings never seem to survive whenever an Official Story is questioned by the public.”

I’ll concede one point in Vox’s favour: he very neatly encapsulated the core fallacy at the heart of his thinking and in Sarah Hoyt’s position on the population of the Earth. I’ll generalise his argument as follows:

The fallacy of denial: If the official story is one thing then this a lie and the truth is in a specific other direction.

As a fallacy, it is a species of the genetic fallacy that treats the source of the argument as determining the truth of the argument. There are instances where similar arguments are not fallacious, for example, if we are evaluating the reliability of evidence from a particular source and that source is known to be unreliable. However, an unreliable source doesn’t contaminate all the other surrounding evidence nor is it rational to conclude that an unreliable witness/source must be lying without additional evidence.

Additionally, there is a fallacy of unreliability here. The fallacy is that if a source of data is unreliable and that all we know about it, then the unreliability can only be in one direction. For example, Vox contends that NASA are obviously lying about something but then doesn’t contemplate whether they are hiding extra moon landings etc. If if you grant that somebody is lying to you, you need other evidence or arguments to conclude even vaguely the nature of the lie.

Back to 7 Billion

Returning to the denial that the population of the Earth is 7 billion, we can see the same fallacy in operation here:

“I don’t think we’re 7 billion or whatever number the UN claims, and frankly I can’t understand why ANYONE believes the UN on this. They can’t be trusted on anything else, pretty much taking the word of dictators and totalitarians for proven facts, but you trust them on this? Really?”

Hoyt argues that the official story is 7 billion and that the official story can’t be trusted and therefore the actual population must be significantly less. She doesn’t say by how much but presumably enough that people would be less concerned about the population of the Earth. It is essentially the same argument as Vox’s but on a completely different subject.

The claim is fallacious even if we can regard some parts of it being credible. To wit, these are reasonable points:

  • Census data can’t be wholly accurate in general.
  • Census data will be even less accurate in less developed countries.
  • Authoritarian regimes do sometimes (or even often) lie about national statistics.

However, none of those points address either the size or the direction of any errors that apply to the 7 billion figure. What they tell us can be summed up as:

Population of the Earth = 7 billion +/- some error

That error is not zero but we knew that already and nobody is claiming it is zero. Hoyt’s argument requires the error to be both negative and substantial, neither of which can be derived from “you can’t trust the UN”.

Denial versus conspiracy

The basic claim we are looking at (i.e. that the population of Earth is substantially less than 7 billion) is best described as denial. By itself, it is simply a claim that something with substantial evidence behind it isn’t true. That’s not the same as a conspiracy theory but it is the seed of one.

The move from a simple denial to conspiracy comes from when further evidence is presented.

In the case of the Earth’s population, we do not need to use the UN figure at all. Instead, we can use the USA’s Census Bureau estimate or we can use an estimate by a private organisation The Population Reference Bureau.

For 2015 these estimates were according to Wikipedia:

  • UN: 7,247,892,788
  • USCB: 7,336,435,000
  • PRB: 7,349,472,000

[Links take you to sources. For UN and USCB these are interactive sources and the figures vary to some degree from what is quoted on the Wiki page but confirm 7 billion + ]

So different groups come to similar figures. Maybe the USCB is lying as well and in the same way as the UN? Well, that’s a definite move into conspiracy theory territory.

A less conspiratorial source of skepticism is that national governments lie. It’s a fair point and if each of those estimates above used the same raw data and that raw data was false then maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the figures are similar. After all, a billion+ of that 7 billion is from China and there is no particular reason to assume that the Chinese government would be honest.

However, that assumes that all these estimates are is simply adding up some top level numbers. It ignores that these numbers are just part of a wider discipline of demographics. Behind the figures are estimates about population density and population growth. These estimates aren’t perfect either but they do make lying about population figures substantially harder.

The estimates are also part of a historical record of estimates and hence would require a government to not just lie but to do so consistently over decades. It might be plausible to believe that the Chinese government would lie but during the years of the much vaunted one-child policy, in what direction would the government lie? To bolster the policy initially a cynical government might inflate population growth but overtime a cynical government would start exaggerating the degree to which the policy had worked. Lying plausibly about such things would be quite a challenge but not impossible in a relatively closed society. While modern China is still under one-party rule, it’s relatively easy to visit and see the size and scale of Chinese cities. That’s not enough to confirm the accuracy of Chinese census figures but it does limit the degree to which they can be inflated.

For other nations unintentional inaccuracy in census figures cuts both ways. There are reasons that some people may be over-counted and reasons why some people might be under-counted. USCB estimates for the population of China in 2015 were 1,367,485,000. Let’s say the ‘true’ figure was HALF of that then the world population would be 6,652,692,500 — less than 7 billion but still 7 billion when rounding to the nearest billion. To get the figure down to 6 billion requires both accidental over-counting and intentional lying from multiple nations.

Such lies might work in a sufficiently rural population where the impact of people is harder to observe but much of the growth in the world is in cities, cities that are observable by satellite. Again, hard to get exact population figures from such data but its not hard for demographers to use economic data, land use data and other sources to provide corroboration.

Put another way: population figures may be ‘wrong’ but there’s a limit to how wrong they can be.

Motive is insufficient

Now imagine the 7 billion figure is a hefty 2 billion people out and in one direction i.e. the actual world population is 5 billion. That figure would require not just huge lies from both China and India but the active collusion of demographers in multiple countries and the governments of hostile nations going along with the deception. But let’s grant that and imagine it’s all part of a plan to frighten people by the spectre of over-population. Is 7 billion seriously that much scarier than 5 billion to be worth all of that effort? And the effort to shave 2 billion off those figures would be significant.

Critical thinking versus credulous thinking

I mourn the word “skeptical” but unfortunately it’s not up to the job of the modern world. “Critical thinking” isn’t much better because what ever word we might use, it will then be misused by flim-flam You-Tube “philosophers” like Stefan Molyneux. However, for the time being at least I can use it to point out a distinction.

It can seem paradoxical the extent to which some people we encounter (not all on the right but increasingly concentrated on the right) can be both so sceptical and credulous at the same time. While doubt and belief look quite different, the “scepticism” is routed in their credulousness. The core issue is not a capacity to believe or disbelieve but rather an unwillingness to interrogate their own beliefs (or disbelief for that matter).

It’s not unlike the very basic advice given to people learning how to do maths or physics problems. It’s not enough to churn through calculations and plug numbers into calculators because small errors can lead to big mistakes and misunderstanding the problem can lead to correct methods to the wrong problem. Adept problem solvers take a step back and ask the question “does this answer actually make sense?”

Reference links

“Now, I have not said that the Moon landings were a hoax, I have only observed that I do not believe the Official Story concerning them. I don’t know what people are lying about or the full extent of their lies and deception, I only know that the Official Story is not entirely true. That does not mean it is entirely false.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/12/skepticism-required-here.html

“I tend to support the faked Moon landing theory myself, not because of any particular detail, but simply based on the theory that if the Official Story is that we landed there, then we probably didn’t.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2006/08/fortuitous-loss.htm

“As with all things for which there is no clear historical consensus, I remain entirely agnostic on the issue. To the extent that I lean one way or the other, I tend to assume that the landings were faked due to the means, motive, and opportunity heuristic and because I am a confirmed cynic when it comes to Official Stories narrated by the U.S. government”.

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/12/no-one-went-to-moon.html

See also:

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2018/12/10/bad-bad-futures-which-didnt-happen/


Advertisements

“based on outrage, not actual products”

I know many regular readers of this blog will not be sad to learn that Jon Del Arroz has deleted his Twitter account. I shan’t rehash Jon’s various actions over the past few years but these links are relevant:

http://www.jimchines.com/2018/01/jon-del-arroz/

https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/and-i-would-have-got-away-with-it-too/

The latest twist in the Ballad of Del Arroz is comicsgategatecomicsgate related. According to JDA himself, Ethan Van Sciver (arguably driving force behind the online harassment campaign known as ‘comicsgate’) had told him to go away:

“Ethan finally came out and said he didn’t like me over the weekend, told me to “go away”, as if I didn’t have any part of this movement before he even showed up. The hubris in that statement and resentment shows that he blames me for his crumbling empire, even though I have little to do with him (I’ve not been around his youtube crew at all for 2 months now!). Last night, he escalated attacks by coming after someone for following me on Twitter, accusing him of being a “Jon del Arroz acolyte” and promptly blocking him.” http://delarroz.com/2018/11/13/two-face-finally-came-for-me/

JDA himself has been variously harassed and counter harassed since the conflict between Vox Day and EVS over the ‘comicsgate’ label erupted in September. Surprisingly, when a movement based on trolling, name calling and harassments falls out with itself the result is not an amicable break-up and everybody agreeing to let bygones be bygones.

JDA also has a more recent blogpost on why comicsgate failed: http://delarroz.com/2018/11/16/a-failed-movement-in-three-acts/

It’s worth a read because it provides some insights into how a participant in one of these campaigns percieves the arc it follows. Jon identifies three phases to comicsgate:

  1. Identify The Problem and Raise Awareness
  2. Alt-Hero ushers in a revolution of crowdfunds
  3. A movement falls to contraction and fighting

It is phase one that Jon identifies as the ‘fun’ part. Of course, that was the part where the comicsgaters were primarily harassing actual writers and artists. The ‘unity’ was unity in spreading hatred and inciting harassment. The second phase was when people tried to make money out of the suckers, um ‘activists’. The third phase was when the infighting started for multiple reasons but JDA ignores the most obvious one: campaigns like comicsgate reward obnoxious behaviour and hence any internal dispute is likely to escalate.

And Jon almost, almost, almost gets it:

“The whole premise was based on outrage, not actual products, and so these guys have to perpetually stoke outrage…”

Yes, yes we know. That’s what people were pointing out from wayyyy before ‘comicsgate’ started. That’s why we’ve been using the term ‘outrage marketing’

The Concerning Fine by Tim Catzi: Part 2 of the Colluding Umpire

Chapter 1
The Countess Moggymotheaten of the House of Moggymotheaten surveyed her surroundings on her palatial spaceship.
“F-ck, f-ck, f-ck,” she said using her customary choice of vocabulary.
“Would…” asked her lawyer and occasional ex-lover Buggles Tinternabbeygiftshop, “…you like to me to…take care of this unfortunate incident for you?”
“Of course I want you to f_cking, f-ck take f_cking, f-ck, f-ck care of f_cking it. F_ck” said the Countess.
Then for good measure she repeated the word “F_ck” sixty seven more times at varying distances from Buggles Tinternabbeygiftshop’s face.

Chapter 2
Across the Interminabledependnecy a thousand human habitations drifted through a pithy and not wholly irrelevant info dump that, with a few asides, discussed much of both the history and the underlying physics of the setting of this novel.

True, most of the population of the Interminabledependnecy already knew this, having sat through (as a largely un-talkative population) the first novel of this series and beside which they had all presumably gone to school or something, although the exact details of how these people lived is beside the point as we’ll largely be looking at the lives of particularly sweary aristocrats for several more chapters.

Chapter 3
The Emperatrix Betty Niceperson considered her options which despite the massive power of her position was highly limited. Not naturally being a sweary aristocrat left Betty Niceperson at a distinct disadvantage when negotiating with the powerful families of Interminabledependnecy. She simply did not know how to say “F_ck” with sufficient vehemence to make herself understood. She had experimented with saying “gosh darn it” but it hadn’t had the same effect.
Just then Buggles Tinternabbeygiftshop arrived with his customary vague threat from the Countess Moggymotheaten.
“I’m sorry,” explained the Emperatrix, “I’ve completely lost track of which person was my half-brother and which person was the Moggymotheaten scion I was supposed to marry and which one was trying to murder me.”
“The simple answer,” explained Buggles, “Is they are in fact all exactly the same person with different names. It’s a technical term we call SRAMP.”
“SRAMP” said Brunomars Nicechap, the Emperatrix’s pet physicist from the first book.
“Some rich arsehole merchant prince,” explained Buggles acronymically.
“I see,” said Betty,” but how does that help with the imminent collapse of the Empire?”
“It doesn’t,” explained Buggles, “I just accidentally wandered in from the earlier chapter.

Chapter 4
“F_cccckkkkkk” continued the Countess Moggymotheaten for at least another few paragraphs.

Chapter 5
Brunomars Nicechap stood in front of the crowd of angry looking space geologists.
“Please,” he pleaded, “you have to believe me that the whole Interminabledependnecy is going to collapse!”
“Of course we believe you,” said the scientists, “your math checks out and anyway the whole thing started to collapse in the last book. We aren’t idiots.”
“But, but, we’ve a whole chapter to fill with you guys not believing me.” said Brunomars Nicechap.
“Maybe we could just all sit here and check our emails instead?” suggested the scientists.
Which is what they did.

Chapter 6
“F_cccckkkkkk” continued the Countess Moggymotheaten for at least another few chapters.

Chapter 7
“What was I doing again?” asked Buggles Tinternabbeygiftshop of the Emperatrix.
“I think you were still supposed to be in chapter 1 getting orders from the Countess Moggymotheaten.” suggested Betty as nicely as possible.
“There’s not much point, she’ll be swearing for another six chapters at least.” said Buggles.
“Well we could have sex instead?” suggested Betty.
“Only if it is perfunctory and somewhat unerotic,” suggested Buggles.
“F_ck,” said the Emperatrix.

Chapter 8
Then the Interminabledependnecy collapsed.
“F_ck” said everybody.

“That’s not how you write a novel,” said Jonathon Franzen.

“F_ck off, Jonathon Franzen,” said the Countess Moggymotheaten who then crashed a spaceship into the sun.

The Mystery of the New New Heinlein

Cast your minds back to May 11 2016. It was a kinder, more innocent time and not-so-crypto crypto-fascist website Vox Popoli invited people to “Meet Rod Walker” (archive link). Walker was, we were told, the “new new Heinlein” and like Heinlein would be writing some exciting “juvenile” targetted science fiction novels for Vox Day’s Castalia House.

We are very excited about our new series of Rod Walker books, because they are exactly what we founded Castalia House to publish. They are pure Blue SF, and contain no foul language, no adult themes, no nihilism, and they are 100 percent social justice-free. Robert Heinlein revitalized science fiction with just 12 wonderful novels – 13, if one counts Starship Troopers which was originally supposed to be a Scribner novel, but was foolishly turned down – and we believe it is possible to do achieve similar effects by applying the same principles that made his early novels so successful.”

The supposed success of “Mutiny in Space” was much trumpeted by Vox Day and this first “juvenile” was followed by two more: “Alien Game” and “Young Man’s War”. All the books had somewhat clumsy 3D model art covers. This was all according to the plan Vox Day had laid out in August 2016: [Archive link]

He is one of the most professional authors in the industry, delivering what must be some of the cleanest manuscripts delivered anywhere. He’s not only professional, he’s prolific, as we’ll be publishing two more of his novels before the end of the year, Alien Game, which is a second Heinlein-style SF juvenile, and an as-yet-untitled fantasy novel set in Minaria, the world of Divine Right.”

“KU is the real game-changer now, because the traditional publishers can’t play there. But we can, and last month, one of our better-selling books sold more via KU than through all the other means and editions combined. It doesn’t make sense for us to sell all our books that way, as we’ve experimented and some books do great while others don’t, but KU editions are now every bit as important in their own right as paperback, hardcover, or audiobook editions.”

In July 2018, Rod Walker’s “Young Man’s War” was on Vox Day’s nomination list for the Dragon Awards.

But what about that fantasy series that was mentioned? In February 2018, the Castalia House blog had a review of a Rod Walker fantasy book called “Master Rogue 1: Mage Tome” http://www.castaliahouse.com/quick-reviews-mage-tome-karma-upsilon-4-and-appalling-stories but aside from that “Rod Walker” had gone a bit quiet.

More recently a stray comment in a post that appeared both at Vox Day’s blog and Castalia House blog caught my eye:

“Castalia House is not doing YA right now,”

A quick trip to Rod Walker’s own blog led to this:

rodwalkerpage

The Wayback machine had a version of his front page from August 2018 but at some point since the blog had been blanked. The archived version showed a fantasy trilogy of novellas called “Master Rogue” . A simple google search for “Master Rogue: Mage Tome” gives a link to an Amazon page but that link leads to:

missingbook

Does Straw Puppy work for Amazon now? Did he always work for Amazon? No, that’s a side issue. Off to Voxopedia. There “Rod Walker (science fiction author)” is a red broken link:

rodwalkervoxopedia

Rod Walker’s last blog entry appears to have been in July 2018. After that point, the mysterious Mr Walker appears to have disappeared and at least some of his book scrubbed from Amazon. The trilogy of novellas appear on Goodreads but no links to the books themselves function. There are odd remnants of the fantasy books on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/aw/cr/B077SGPHK2/ref=mw_dp_cr ) which prove they existed but they’ve since gone.

The conclusion was obvious: Rod Walker has vanished as swiftly as he once appeared and with him a trio of fantasy novellas. The new new Heinlein simply…vanished…

You Haven’t Mocked Voxopedia In A Long Time

That’s very true random blog post title writer, I haven’t.

Yes, the shambling undead creature assembled from rotting remains of articles discarded by Wikipedia continues to lurch through the countryside occasionally gurgling the word “brrraainnss” (or is it “editorrrrsss”). Somehow it is still not dead despite being edited by a tiny number of people, two of whom seem to be at war over which kind of weird conspiracy theory complex is the right one.

Has it got worse? Mainly, yes. It already harboured some nasty apologetics for people who had psychologically abused children and since then has gained at least one editor engaged in some kind of transphobic campaign. Without sounding too much like a character from a Lovecraft pastiche, I shan’t link to the articles in question for fear that they may drive you mad or (more realistically) despair of humanity.

The incompetence remains refreshing. For example, the community portal (which I will link to https://infogalactic.com/info/Infogalactic:Community_portal ) remains remarkably informative…because all of the links in the “Topics” section go to…Wikipedia. Nobody has edited the community portal since April 2017, presumably because the community is so happy an healthy and nobody’s limbs have dropped off as they shambled with arms outstretched as if scripted by George Romero.

“But surely,” I hear you say, “the platform itself must have enabled some soul who has been frustrated by the narrow-minded editors of Wikipedia to find a safe harbour where they could express their encyclopedic tendencies without the harsh judgement of the social justice warriors?” Fear not. For amid the hatred and bigotry, conspiracy theories and hagiography of Ted Beale, one benighted soul has found a home on Voxopedia to bring to the world articles that no conventional wiki could ever host. I bring to you, Voxopedia – the place was Englebert Humperdinck reigns supreme.

Perhaps you want to know about Humperdinck’s 1977 compilation album “Engelbert Sings for You”? Well sorry bud but those stuffed shorts at Wikipedia can’t help you out! Not so Voxopedia: https://infogalactic.com/info/Engelbert_Sings_for_You_(Engelbert_Humperdinck_album)

Or maybe A Merry Christmas with Engelbert Humperdinck is more your thing: https://infogalactic.com/info/A_Merry_Christmas_with_Engelbert_Humperdinck_(Engelbert_Humperdinck_album)

Or perhaps https://infogalactic.com/info/Engelbert_Sings_the_Hits_(Engelbert_Humperdinck_album) an article form which we can learn:

“Not much information is available on this album, but it appears to be made by EMI, without any involvement from Epic. Hence, this was probably not released in the US.”

One plucky editor appears to have spent the past week attempting to make Voxopedia THE internet authority on Englebert Humperdinck. Is this a prank or is the Alt-Right desperate to find a popular singer to listen too now that they feel betrayed by Taylor Swift? Weirdly, the Voxopedia article on Humperdinck doesn’t mention his 2017 cover of an Ed Sheeran song, unlike Wikipedia — a fact that once again makes me feel the need to add dire warning like a character in a Lovecraft pastiche.

Things I learned today:

  • Englebert Humperdinck is English and has the Freedom of the City of Liecester.
  • According to Wikipedia “Humperdinck enjoyed his first real success during July 1966 in Belgium, where he and four others represented Britain in the annual Knokke song contest”
  • I’d obviously heard of Humperdinck but I think I had him confused with somebody else but I’m not sure who.
  • This is far more than I wanted to know about Englebert Humperdinck.

 

Sorry, but yes you did co-opt the Sad Puppies…

Comics love nothing more than a crossover event! In a rambling post about the schmozzle that was (comicsgatecomics^comicsgate^gate)! Vox Day is very keen to set the record straight about previous culture-wars hijackings:

“I would, however, like to correct one common misapprehension: I never co-opted Sad Puppies. To the contrary, I was the architect of the Sad Puppies most notorious success and at no point in time was there ever any conflict between the Sad Puppies and me. If you look more closely, you’ll notice that none of the four leaders of the Sad Puppies, from Larry to Kate, have ever made a single accusation on that score. I don’t intend to say any more than that, except to reiterate an absolute fact: I did not co-opt Sad Puppies and anyone who claims I did in any way, shape, or form is wrong.” http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/09/dramagate.html [link for reference, I don’t recommend following it]

Hmmm, no I think it is safe to say that Vox Day really did co-opt the Sad Puppy campaign. Let me count the ways:

  • He used Brad Torgersen’s cobbled together slate to form his own slate.
  • He used the name “Rabid Puppies” to sow confusion between the two campaigns
  • He commissioned a logo for his campaign from the same artist as the logo for the Sad Puppies campaign
  • He manipulated the Sad Puppies into the spectacular own goal of the Tor boycott
  • He mounted a vote stacking campaigns to help ensure that the Sad Puppy nominees swept whole categories…
  • …and then left the Sad Puppies to defend the outcome

To be honest, I’m a little surprised Vox isn’t boasting about it. He very much wants people to believe that he is a master strategist of Batman like proportions and their are very few actual examples of him actually doing anything particularly clever. Yet the manipulation of the Sad Puppies is the one obvious and genuine example – he played them like a fiddle. Yes, they were easy and very gullible targets but still, Vox has no reason for false modesty in this one (and very limited) regard.

A Philosophical Muddle

The political extremities are always strange places to visit. The far-right of Catholicism (or perhaps better described as the Catholic part of the far-right) in particular has some strange features. Recruiting as it does from the same mélange of social panics and prejudices, the outcomes it preaches fall in the same spectrum as the rest of the far-right: anti-immigrant rhetoric, nationalism, rhetoric against transgender people, rhetoric against LGBTQI people in general and the same confused appeals for free speech for those who wish to restrict free speech.

On top of that toxic soup is a layer of Platonic philosophy: abstractions are things and are real things in a way that actual real things aren’t. Here’s Dragon ‘Award winning author and freelance editor’ Brian Niemeier on the nature of God:

“When Christians–and some theist philosophers like Aristotle–say God, we don’t mean an old man on a mountaintop composing a global naughty/nice list when he’s not conjuring boulders he can’t lift. Such a being would fall into the category of a creature, albeit a powerful creature, existing within the material, temporal order.

What we mean by God is the uncreated, all-powerful, and absolute Being who transcends the created order.” http://www.brianniemeier.com/2018/08/finding-god.html

From there he segues into some classic arguments for the existence of god that follow the basic structure of abstract thing can be observed in reality, therefore, the abstract thing must exist as a thing in itself, therefore, some ultimate abstraction of the thing must be a god.

As regular readers will know, I think such arguments are flawed but it is worth acknowledging they are powerful arguments in their own way despite their head-scratching elements. What interests me most about them, is that by their nature they define and limit what kind of thing ‘god’ must be. In Brian Niemeier’s argument, his god is the essence of pure being – it is the thing that is what it is ultimately to ‘be’. Fair enough, imagine such a thing exists — I can take that as a credible belief. Where that becomes laughably absurd is when somebody asserts such a belief AND asserts that the core principle of being that transcends the universe spends its days worrying about whether people are wearing the wrong clothes, kissing the wrong people or not bing prayed at in Latin (obviously far-right Catholicism really needs mass to be said in Latin).

I’m stuck trying to imagine what is more rational. If a person has to believe their religion must validate their petty prejudices about other people would it not be more rational to believe in a petty & temperamental god. Apologies to any lingering Zeus worshipers but I can see how Zeus, as a character, might have strong opinions on such things. Niemeier notes that his god is not “composing a global naughty/nice list” but also believes that without a specific magic ritual, said in the right language, you can’t access the abstract principle of being qua being.

Think about it this way. The abstract number 7 has as much claim to existence transcending mere physical existences as “being” or any other abstraction — perhaps more so as there is the practical and powerful discipline of arithmetic that deals with things like 7 whose conclusions have real world implications. If you wish to take the Platonic* stance on the existence of 7 then I can’t regard your position as irrational. However, if you tell me that the number 7 has strong views on immigration policy** or that you can’t really relate to the number 7 unless you do arithmetic in Sanskrit then I think I’m entitled to look at your beliefs somewhat askance.

‘But that’s just an argument from incredulity’ well, yes it is an appeal to how absurd the idea is but to put it in more concrete terms, if a thing is the pure abstraction of X then its only quality can be X or qualities of which X is a member. Imagine the quality of ‘colour’ as a thing in itself (if that was possible) and call that X. In such a case X can’t be red and it can’t be blue, by being abstraction of colour it can’t be a particular colour. Going closer to the point, consider the abstraction of ‘opinion’. The abstraction of opinion cannot be a particular opinion as it is, by definition, the abstraction of the common qualities held by all opinions.

The above is not an argument for the non-existence of god, its not even an argument against the existence of an ultimately transcendent god (although I don’t believe in either). What it is that you can rationally have some ultimate transcendent principle of principles in a Platonic hierarchy or you can have a god that thinks about things and cares about what is going on but those two things can’t be the same without promoting absurdities.

*[Platonic here refereing to ‘Platonism’ in the mathematical philosophy sense that is derived from Plato but which doesn’t neccesarily reflect what Plato said.]

**[Although if 7 did have strong views on immigration policy then I’m sure they would be very compassionate and progressive views]