Thursday, February 19, 2015

On Atheism and Virtue.

Ian Cooper

When Atheism becomes nothing more than an attack platform, an excuse to indulge in bigotry and prejudice against those who disagree, that is when I find it the least interesting.

All you have to do is read the comment section on any story regarding atheism, evolution, creationism, or something merely Biblical, or whatever the subject is. It’s easy to find plenty of examples. There are bigots on both sides of the issue, as well as the merely immature.

I don’t care if people are stupid to believe this or that. I don’t necessarily think they are inherently evil because they think different thoughts. And I think that works both ways—I can look at an atheist from the point of view of a religionist, and guess what?

They really are godless. One might think that is the point.

We are entirely Godless, and yet we wish to discuss certain moral issues.

We would like to discuss those issues with the rest of the world, and atheism is not evolution. It is not science in schools, it is not an attack on gun rights or the right to free speech. Atheism is not communism, nor is it an attack on the nuclear family, marriage or the children and their cute little kittens.

It is a method of making systematic inquiries into questions of a moral character, one which leaves supernatural causes out of the equation.

Atheism has broken the monopoly on morality formerly held by religion.

Look. It does me no good to read an anti-Semite’s views on the Jewish religion within the context of a discussion of atheism. Even Voltaire was a bigot, albeit one who claimed to be a philosopher.

To me that is not its purpose.

The purpose of atheism is, and should be, in my opinion, a method of both learning about, and teaching morality, which might be described as inculcating positive virtues in an individual, as well as within the greater social context.

There are many virtues. Virtually all human virtues are survival traits, but that is evolution, and others prefer to express that in terms of supernatural revelation. Fur surely that is what God is, if in fact there is a God. He exists outside of all of nature. This is the realm of speculation, which is by its very nature immeasurable.

Science is a system of investigation based on the collection of evidence through observation and experiment. Without something to measure and something to measure it with, it’s not much good.

We can still assign certain values to things.

Thrift is a virtue. Industriousness is a virtue. Respecting others is a virtue. These virtues are not the exclusive province of any one religion or world view.

They are in fact common to all human beings at some level. They’re often even expressed in terms of being handed down from above, when in fact they probably arose from mutual agreement over time within the social and cultural context.

Religion is myth, legend and fancy codified into a belief system.

People can and do teach themselves to believe anything they want—literally anything.

Tolerance is a virtue. Like any skill, it must be practiced, and over time the individual gets better at it.

It’s really hard to do, isn’t it? We know that even from within our own group, the people who actually agree with us most of the time.

Human beings are not perfect creatures, and of course we all fall down from time to time—when our tolerance fails us, when our patience fails us, when we ourselves are anxious and under threat.

If nothing else, this might be useful information, as it is helpful in seeing it from the other guy’s point of view once in a while.

Toning down that rhetoric might be the first step in toning down that perceived threat, no matter which side one might choose to be on.

That’s because anger stems from fear.

Anger leads to harsh words, and from there things quickly spiral out of control.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Key Won't Turn, More On the Continuing Saga of My Car.

Order_242, (Wiki.) Hola Chile.

Ian Cooper

I’ve blogged about the continuing saga of my car before.

The big thing, in my humble experience, is not to panic when something goes wrong.

A good case in point was the other day. It was minus fourteen Celsius, with a wind chill of about minus twenty.

I stuck the key in the ignition and it wouldn’t turn. This happened a few days before. The car is a 2002 model. I paid about $2,100.00 three years ago. Sooner or later the thing must inevitably be towed away for scrap value. In the meantime, if something goes wrong, I try and think it through, gather as much information as possible, and desperately try not to throw money at a problem when a little knowledge might save a few bucks.

My mother was in town—she lives twenty-five kilometres away, so I got her to take me to the smoke-shack and the bank. She has CAA and she can get me a tow if necessary. I called the dealership, and the ignition lock cylinder, according to the parts department, is about $143.00.

I got them to put me through to the service department and the service writer told me that it generally takes a half an hour of labour to change the cylinder.

How that relates to keys with the transponder chip in them is a good question, because the cylinder has to match the key. I only have one key, it’s cold as hell out there. Snow lies in heaps all about my car, and working on the thing in the apartment building’s parking lot isn’t all that attractive.

As soon as I hang up the phone, I think of ten more questions I should have asked. Yet I would sure hate to be a pain in the ass to them guys.

I hate being cooped up in here. Call it maturity, call it a kind of quiet Canadian desperation, but panic wasn’t going to help me.

When all the world seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket, (whatever the frick that is) then a smart poverty-stricken basterd turns to the internet...right?

Okay. Here’s this guy saying how to turn the key when your steering lock becomes engaged. Mine wasn’t at first, but by the time I was done wiggling the steering wheel, trying over and over again, inserting and reversing the key, the steering did become locked. Here is a trouble-shooting list.

Here’s another guy talking about removing the bottom cover and lightly tapping on the rib of metal that surrounds the lock cylinder—don’t be whaling away on this relatively soft metal casting with an iron-worker’s hammer and maybe that would work.

The question is what exactly is the problem? But hitting the button on the remote lock feature quickly shows whether the battery in your two-piece keyset is working.

Arguably the lock or the key is simply worn. If I had another key, it might actually work better. This still does not address a worn cylinder, although it might put off spending money on a repair for a while.

My ignition failed in my own driveway—and yet we all need to go to the grocery store, and not everyone has CAA or a cell-phone for that matter. (I don’t.)

It all comes down to poverty, but after discussing it with the gentleman at the dealership, I decided that if the lock is screwed, tapping on the end of the key isn’t going to hurt it any further.

The question is how hard? And for how long? If you’re still smashing and pounding away a half an hour later, Buddy, it ain’t going to work.

Calling the tow truck and having her hauled to the dealer is a good default option. A hundred and forty for the part, a half hour of labour…that’ll be about eight hundred bucks, right…??? By the time we're done here...

So I tried the car again. The key would not turn.

Then, using a snow scraper, which is plastic and not all that heavy, I just tapped and whacked and banged lightly away on the end of the key in the ignition switch. I don’t particularly want to smash the key out the end of the cylinder, neither do I want to dislodge the cylinder…what I think we are trying to do is to free up some sticky pins in the lock cylinder. (Maybe.)

I used a little electronic cleaner, and shoved the key in and out. And of course the little bugger worked.

It’s interesting when the thing fires up, but all I could do was to take her for a ride. It’s a bit stupid to shut it off away from home—or I could have taken it to the dealership and arranged for repairs. This saves the price of a tow, or calling my mother and going through the hassle of finagling a free tow. 

I’m a grown man and that’s sort of coat-tailing your own mother, right?

When I got home, I took the key out. I put it back in, and it wouldn’t turn. So, I whacked on it with the scraper, and got it to go again. I started the car and switched it off.

Now, if you were truly desperate (and I’m not, not so much, anyways) you could buy a cheap aftermarket lock cylinder and do this with the transponder chip in your keyset.

I don’t claim to be a great mechanic. What I am is cheap—and resourceful.

Basically we just bought ourselves some time. We went to the liquor store and we're feeling pretty impressed with ourselves.

And that is a good feeling, ladies and gentlemen.

The smart thing to do is to take the thing in to the dealership first thing Monday morning.


(We’ll leave you with that. – ed.)