Sweet Coconut Thai Chai

Coconut things are especially addictive to me. I am drowning my sorrow from losing my favorite ice cream flavor (Haagen Dazs toasted coconut sesame brittle, oooooh) with my new favorite tea – Celestial Seasonings sweet coconut Thai chai. A close runner up is the Stash coconut mango.

So vacation part two: we left from San Francisco to the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival, and I can sum up all my feelings about it by saying that it was ok. I’d rather go to FloydFest. The problem was that everything was literally twice as expensive as it felt like it should be. There was only one stage, it was oppressively sunny during the day and freezing cold at night, the very expensive rooms and food were meh. I had a good time, but I’m not in a hurry to go back to that particular resort or festival.

We did want to return to Jackson and spend more time at the national parks, although not at the same motel. We stayed at a dubious (but still not remarkably cheap) motel with dubious patrons. It’s probably good that we didn’t try to camp, because we’d underestimated how cold it would feel anyway. We were going to go on a ferry ride and hike in the Grand Teton National Park, but it cost $5 more than I expected, so we didn’t have enough cash for the ferry and the Jenny Lake parking lot was overflowing, and it started to rain. So we decided to drive to Yellowstone instead. Besides, it’s practically obligatory. We made it to Old Faithful, which did its thing at its scheduled time. We considered continuing to Montana, but decided that we would miss dinner. Dinner was an improvement on the previous night – wagyu beef tartare and pasta with elk and bison meat sauce.

Yes, I talk a lot about money on vacations. But I’m not anywhere as bad as I used to be – when driving to Washington with college friends, we declined a $10 drive through the Badlands National Park in favor of driving around the perimeter for free. There’s only a few years between charmingly young and broke, and cheap and kind of weird. In our defense, we’d intended to find campsites…

San Francisco is excellent

Utah was surprisingly interesting – less desert than I’d expected, and I’d never seen anything like the salt flats. Reno wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. I visited a friend from college while I was there, and she isn’t crazy about it – it wouldn’t be my first choice to actually live there though. Having to go through the casinos and the tourists would be tiring, and there isn’t much else there. But there were nice mountains and neighborhoods – I guess I was imagining that everyone lived in apartments and that there wouldn’t be any trees, although A said that the trees were a planned part of the city and almost none would have grown naturally.

Although I had a good deal of work to do that kept me from going out every day in San Francisco, everything that we did and ate in the city was great. I went to the MOMA, found some macarons, and went out with the NorCal BWB. And I walked and walked and walked. Some of the walking was because after a few days, things started looking familiar, but I couldn’t remember how far they were from the hotel, or what side of the street they should be on, and I missed a lot of turns. There were scores of restaurants that we wanted to go to but didn’t have the time – it seems like you could never run out of things to do. However, I’d want to live in the city or not live in the area at all. For the expensive big move though, I’m still holding out for France.

Vacation: Utah, Nevada, San Francisco, Grand Tetons

I’ve never been to Utah or Nevada, and I’m excited to go although I’m told that it will probably be boring. In fact, I’ve never been to any of these places, although I’ve been to other cities in California and Wyoming. After this trip there will be only 3.5 states that I have not visited: Oregon, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and kind of Alaska. In fact, I have been to Alaska in the most official way possible. I de-boarded the plane, went through customs, got a stamp on my passport and five years later, a entry on my certificate of naturalization. There may only be a few other states where my presence has been as officially documented as in Alaska. However, I can not actually REMEMBER being in Alaska. Unfortunately, these last 3.5 states are about as inconvenient from one another as possible. I can only hope for business trips.

I will be quite busy over the next few weeks, but I intend to update the blog with accounts of my travels.

Book Review: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist – Ch 7.2

I’ve spent a lot of time on un-deniability and reactions, and I’d like to go through the other points a little more quickly since I’m not even halfway through the book. The author Godwins the third point. LOL. I’m trying to take this reading seriously, but citing the Declaration of Independence and then using the Nazis as an unrelated example is not an argument. At any rate, this is the same point as the first point in different words. In fact, almost every further point is the same point as the first point, that we have intuitive knowledge about morality. However, all that this demonstrates is that people have an ethical sense. It does not prove that a god was necessary to create a system of ethics. Indeed, the term moral law goes generally undefined. A few examples of right and wrong are given, but no more rigorous definition emerges beyond what is known by people’s reactions. I cannot discuss the moral law in depth if the author does not define it!

Next, the author claims that morality appears relative because of failure to make proper distinctions (p 182). First up are absolute morals vs. changing behavior. He uses an example that is relevant to me, that of cohabitation and premarital sex. I feel that the author would probably direct me back to point eight, if there were no moral law, then we wouldn’t make excuses for violating it (p 181), but I am not attempting to defend myself or my behavior. I genuinely do not know why it is morally wrong to be in a committed relationship without getting married. It is not undeniably immoral as the harm in it may be debated, my reaction to it does not indicate that anyone is being harmed or treated unfairly, and it does not fall into any categories that I consider to be absolutely wrong. The author’s previous reasons for knowing that the moral law exists seem only to apply to those within a Christian environment, who will feel guilty for breaking the rules of their community.

The second distinction is that of changing perception of the facts (p 182). I am not sure of the point that the author is trying to make through his example. He says that in the late 1700s, witches were sentenced as murderers and now they are not. The perception was once that witches could murder people with curses, but that now people no longer believe that they can. However, the Bible says that one should not suffer a witch to live (Exodus 22:18). Is he claiming that those who practice Wicca should still be put to death by the unchanging absolute morals of the Bible? I am not seeing that reading in this paragraph. Using the examples that I’ve already given, it appears that many of the laws of the Bible were based upon perceptions that almost no modern person, including most Christians, now accepts. By what mechanism should we divide the unchanging moral values from the antiquated perception of the moral situation in the perfect law of the lord?

Third is the application to particular situations. All I want to say at this time is that these following sections are presented as opinion without rigorous proof. The author says that people may get morality wrong in complicated situations but not on the basics, and claims that truthfully answering a simple moral question such as whether murder is justified proves that at least one law of morality exists (p 184). I do not know how anyone could consider that a simple moral question, because the definition of murder is not universal, even among Christians. But what troubles me most is that he makes his last assertion completely without backing – if the moral law exists, then so does the Moral Law Giver (p 185). This is a weaselly way to present a case.

The fifth distinction, moral disagreements, is another appeal to un-deniability, and a dishonest one at that. He claims that most people know deep in their hearts that an unborn child is a human being (p 186), and I’m disgusted that he would attempt to discredit those he disagrees with in such a way. I am not talking about the issue of abortion, but about this tactic of claiming intellectual dishonesty and willfulness on the behalf of his opponents. It is no different than if I claimed that Geisler and Turek know deep in their hearts that there is no god, but suppress that knowledge as a matter of the will in order to justify how they have spent their lives. If the author and you truly believe that everyone who disagrees with them is deliberately fooling themselves, there is no point in continuing to pretend to have an honest conversation.

Ah! Godwinned again! I have no interest in addressing the straw man Darwinist that the author attacks. I am not qualified to explain a Darwinian system of morality, since it is something that I know little about, and I do not have the time to read much about it right now, as I am currently embarked on a rather time consuming blogging project. I will attempt to address it at a later time, after this review is finished, as my purpose for writing this now is to react to a Christian apologetic and not to publish a scholarly work. Until then, I recommend the library at http://www.infidels.org for a collection of articles dealing with atheism and morality (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/nontheism/atheism/morality-and-atheism.html). The author claims that he has shown that if at least one thing is really morally wrong, then God exists (p 192). I assert that he has failed to show that, and in fact has not even tried to show it but has done a lot of hand waving with controversial topics and unproven blanket statements. He also claims that to be a consistent atheist, one has to believe that there is nothing wrong with any heinous act (p 193). Apparently, he will not consider any atheistic claim that humans are capable of authoring a moral system either through necessity or rational thought. That is coupled with the final interesting thing, on the very last page of the chapter, which is the statement that in Christian theology, the Moral Law is god’s nature (p 193). He did not address the Euthyphro dilemma, but from his other statements, it is obvious that he believes that any person can determine whether a course of action is good for reasons other than because god says it is. The moral atheist will claim that if these reasons are self-evident despite god’s existence, they can also be self-evident without god’s existence.