Sometimes people ask me this question, and this is the answer I give. Obviously I’m not going to do the whole topic justice, but here is my simplistic way of looking at the question.

First: what do you mean by “god”?

If you mean “god” as a concept, obviously it exists. Virtually everyone on the planet has some kind of concept of a god, and it is possible to have a conversation with references to a god and be confident of some meaningful exchanges of information.

If you mean “god” as a physical entity that currently exists then the relevant facts are all the scientific information we have gathered about the physical world. None of those facts indicate the existence of a physical god, so we can be exactly as certain that there is no god as we can be that there is no unicorn, no Easter Bunny, no Santa Claus etc. In my view that is a high level of certainty, but whether it leaves room for doubt could be a matter of opinion.

If you mean “god” as something else eg a non-physical entity, or an entity that existed in the past but no longer, then the burden of definition is yours to bear. If you can’t define what you mean, then you can’t expect me to argue whether it exists or not. That is “agnostic by definition”.

In my view of the world, “god” exists as a concept of human invention and does not exist as a real, physical entity. I think the facts available are sufficient to reach that conclusion with a high degree of certainty, and that the process of getting to that point is highly rational. Regarding other kinds of god, I deal with those on a case by case basis as anyone offers a definition of what “god” means.

Aren’t you glad you asked?

I personally know a handful of OA or similar award recipients, and in many cases what I see is the effectiveness of the networks they belong to in rewarding their own, rather than any intrinsic worth. Is it enough if their peers think it’s enough?

I am directly involved in the awarding process in two organisations, and I have to say it’s not easy to do. No-one wants to give an award for “just doing your job”, but if you have a candidate for recognition within their chosen profession or speciality, what exactly is it that they should have done to justify that award? Not an easy question.

The guidelines used for some the awards I am involved in include:
1. “Took a risk, made a difference; encouragement in mid-career ”
2. “Distinguished contribution to the field of …”
3. “Outstanding and distinguished lifetime achievement in and contribution to the field of …”
4. “Very significant lifetime achievement in and contribution to the field of …”
5. “Extraordinary and long-term contribution to the … organisation”

They all imply something more than just “doing your job” but how much more?

Another question: in many cases we look to a recipient as a role model, for the young to emulate. What if you have someone who makes a truly outstanding contribution, recognised by everyone, but cheats on the tax? Or perhaps molests little girls? Where do you draw that line?

Let me know if you find some easy answers. I don’t know any.

Laws generally fall into 3 categories: (a) protecting the rights of individuals or minorities (b) regulating conduct (c) operating the state.

Type (a) laws only limit freedom to the extent that rights are in conflict: the protection of the rights of the victim restricts the rights of the perpetrator. Most laws in this category are a net positive for personal freedoms, and laws such as those in a Bill of Rights are entirely about freedoms.

Type (c) laws are relatively neutral on freedoms. The laws that set up the parliament, the police force, courts, ATO, banks, industry, contracts, public transport, infrastructure, corporations, etc have little impact on personal freedom. The agencies they create may have an impact, but not the laws themselves.

Type (b) laws are the ones we should worry about. They include laws on topics like public drunkenness, affray, most traffic laws, public nuisance, censorship, etc, etc. These are the “do-good” laws that sound great in theory but add up to the nanny state.

So what about banning the burqa?

I don’t favour a ban, because I see it as type (b), regulating conduct with no great contribution to the protection of rights. However, there are some undesirable aspects and it would be relatively easy to introduce 2 specific laws, to make it:

  1. A criminal offence for a person to engage or attempt to engage in any commercial, contractual or regulated transaction or activity, or the creation, signing, production of any document related to personal identity, without exposing one’s full face, except with the prior express and written permission of the other part(ies) or the relevant regulating organisation as the case may be;
  2. A criminal offence for a person to impose or attempt to impose any obligation or demand or exemption on any other person or organisation on the grounds of any religious belief, principle or claim.

The rationale is that you are personally free to do what you like but transactions with other people give them the right to know who they are dealing with, and you can hold what beliefs you like but not impose them on others.

So, you can wear your burqa, but you cannot buy or use a ticket for a train, tram or bus; cannot drive a car; cannot go shopping; cannot buy food etc unless you are willing to remove it whenever you interact with anyone; and you cannot use “freedom of religion” as an excuse to force your requirements onto others.

These are type (a) laws that protect the freedoms and rights of the people and organisations you interact with against unwelcome religion-based demands and obligations. I would like them to extend to a number of other religious groups, but we won’t go into that now.

Sometimes, I feel just like this…

(the little girl, that is.)
Sorry, unknown attribution.

Just ran across this link
Kohlberg describes the following.

Scientific American recently published an article by Max Tegmark, which provides calculations for a particular kind of infinite universe.

Although I think his use of the word “infinite” is a bit loose, he is careful to define exactly what he means, and his logic is scientifically valid. His argument is as follows:

Imagine that the universe is a simulation. What kind of computer would it take to run that simulation?

Just to be clear, imagine that every human intelligence on the planet is actually a piece of software running in a cosmic supercomputer, and that nothing else really exists. Everything you see, every sensory impression of any kind, is the result of executing an algorithm and evaluating some formulae. The sky, oceans, plants, even other living animals are all created to the extent that anyone is paying attention to them, and otherwise are simply not there. Ditto for physics, astronomy and the heavenly bodies: created and modelled for those who look at them.

[Yes, we could economise by only simulating a few people and creating all the others as needed, but that’s not the point.]

So how much computer power would it take? Hard to say, but perhaps not as much as you might think.

Mind you, whoever created the simulation and is now watching its progress might themselves be a simulation in some higher computer. Think about that for a while!

Why is there something and not nothing? I know the answer, because Jesus and Mo told me.

Love those guys!

I’ve been thinking about alternative medicine.

A broad general review would likely find that alternative medicine is clearly superior to Western medicine in two specific areas: (1) its practitioners are more attentive and spend more time with their patients and (2) although Western medicine does rely to some extent on the placebo effect, alternative medicine seems to have better placebos and get more out of them.


Scientology is a dangerous cult which aims to maximise power and wealth for its
inner circle, with no concern for who it hurts on the way. Stay well clear —
it bites and the bite can be fatal.

Now THAT’s what you need to know about Scientology.

If you want the dirty details, start here.

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