Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cure for Incurable Optimists

Do you know someone whose disposition is so positive and sunny that it's irritating? Are they a Pollyanna? Do they resemble Voltaire's Candide? No matter how bad things look do they always cheerily affirm that things really couldn't be better? If so, you might want to link them to this slide show by a prominent economist. In his view we're facing within the next few months an historically unprecedented worldwide economic cataclysm, and worse, there's nothing we can do to stop it.

Even if you don't understand all the graphs, slides 22 to 30 pretty much sum things up.

Have a great day.

Talking about Nothing

Physicist Lawrence Krauss argues in his book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing that we need not think that the universe requires a transcendent cause, that it could have simply arisen out of nothing. Thus, Krauss maintains, there's no reason to think that there's a God who caused the universe to exist.

Philosopher Edward Feser, a Thomist scholar, writes a piece at First Things in which he exposes Krauss' philosophical naiveté and lack of understanding of the things about which he writes.

Krauss wants to argue, according to Feser, that the answer to the question of what caused the universe can't be God because then we can ask the question what caused God. This argument, however, Feser dispatches in a couple of paragraphs by showing how the classical Aristotelians, the Neo-Platonists and Gottfried Leibniz long ago showed that the ultimate cause of the universe cannot itself be something that requires a cause.

Leibniz, for instance, argues that God is not a contingent being whose existence is somehow caused by something else. If he were he would be part of the contingent world and not God at all. God is ab defino a necessary being which is the ultimate cause of all contingent entities. Apart from the existence of this being no contingent things (things which could possibly not be and which depend upon something else for their existence) could exist.

Feser then addresses Krauss' main point:
Krauss’ aim is to answer the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” without resorting to God — and also without bothering to study what previous thinkers of genius have said about the matter. Like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, and Peter Atkins, Krauss evidently thinks that actually knowing something about philosophy and theology is no prerequisite for pontificating on these subjects.

Nor is it merely the traditional theological answer to the question at hand that Krauss does not understand. Krauss doesn’t understand the question itself. There is a lot of farcical chin-pulling in the book over various “possible candidates for nothingness” and “what ‘nothing’ might actually comprise,” along with an earnest insistence that any “definition” of nothingness must ultimately be “based on empirical evidence” and that “‘nothing’ is every bit as physical as ‘something’”— as if “nothingness” were a highly unusual kind of stuff that is more difficult to observe or measure than other things are.

Of course, “nothing” is not any kind of thing in the first place but merely the absence of anything. Consider all the true statements there are about what exists: “Trees exist,” “Quarks exist,” “Smugly ill-informed physicists exist,” and so forth. To ask why there is something rather than nothing is just to ask why it isn’t the case that all of these statements are false. There is nothing terribly mysterious about the question, however controversial the traditional answer.
The universe exists and the question is, why? What caused it to exist? Whatever the ultimate cause that cause itself must be something whose existence is not contingent and therefore necessary. That is, it not only must exist, it cannot not exist and cannot be caused by anything else to exist. Such a being, if not the God of traditional theism, is something very much like him.

For a detailed treatment of this issue read Paul Herrick's reply to atheist philosopher Keith Parsons here.

Making Your Blood Boil Dept.

I shouldn't post on this stuff because it just makes my blood pressure go up, but let's go ahead and bust the cuff on the old sphygmomanometer. This article is from National Review:
The federal government is handing out $4.2 billion a year to illegal aliens.

This isn’t some service benefit that illegal aliens are receiving, like taxpayer-subsidized health care or education. And it’s not a tax deduction or a non-refundable tax credit, which would require recipients to actually pay taxes in order to receive the benefit. It’s a refundable tax credit, a taxpayer-funded check from the federal government. And the government requires no proof that the recipient is actually eligible under the law, which illegals are not.

Abuse of this tax benefit is one of the most ridiculous examples of fraud adding to our federal deficit today. Equally harmful, it is acting as a powerful incentive for more illegal aliens to come to America.

While illegal aliens don’t qualify for legitimate Social Security numbers, the IRS allows them to apply for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs). The overwhelming majority of returns with ITINs are filed by illegals. This is how they fraudulently apply for and receive these checks.

This tax credit was designed to help working families offset the costs of raising children. But illegal aliens — who don’t possess valid Social Security numbers because they are not authorized to work in this country — are able to receive these tax credits by simply providing an ITIN and claiming to have children. So, American taxpayers are writing checks to illegal aliens — $1,000 per child, $4.2 billion per year total.

An investigative reporter in Indianapolis recently uncovered cases in which illegal aliens were claiming the child tax credit for nieces and nephews who did not even live in the United States. Some received more than $10,000 from the federal government.

One admitted that his address was used by four other illegal aliens who don’t even live there. They claimed 20 children were living in one mobile home and received returns, including the additional child tax credit, totaling $29,608. But only one child actually lives at the residence; the other 19 live in Mexico and have never even visited the United States.
There's more at the link to push your systoles and diastoles into the red and put you at risk of cardiac arrest. I have to go lay down.