Beta Culture: Honoring the Fallen … of Science

I'm not a big fan of that pro-military, jingoistic "Support the troops" and "Freedom isn't free" crap, mainly because it compresses a very complex situation down to a simplistic slogan, with an added "with us or against us" flavor. When I visit Washington DC, I'm always impressed with how MANY memorials there are glorifying war, how few there are -- zero -- glorifying peace.Also, in counterpoint to the two national holidays we have honoring soldiers, I've suggested a national holiday, SALT … [Read more...]

The Root of Transcendence

As an atheist, you hear it all the time – the in-your-face assertion that Humans are “wired for God.” We believe in gods, we’re told, because it’s natural to us. Because we have something in us that NEEDS a god or gods. Maybe because it carries some evolutionary advantage, so we evolved to have it.The conclusion, in the mind of any faith-professing Christian, is that we’re this way because there really is a god, or at least some sort of “something bigger out there somewhere” that makes it so. … [Read more...]

Earth Day 2015: Thoughts Like Falling Leaves

[This is a repost of a piece I did several years ago, slightly edited for 2015. This essay is also part of the conceptual force driving my thoughts on the need for Beta Culture.]Leaf OneCon games and sleight-of-hand magic work because, one, we humans only have so much attention to spare at any one moment, and two, they direct that attention deliberately in one direction. If you look at where the finger points, you miss … well, everything else.Like the movie teen backing through a d … [Read more...]

Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 8 of 8 (Repost)

Parts:  One — Two — Three — Four — Five — Six — Seven — Eight This is the Truth:In my hunting days, I was headwaiter at a seafood restaurant in a little resort town in the California’s Eastern Sierra mountains. Hunting season had opened several days before, but I’d had to work every day. This was my last evening shift before I had a couple of days off, and I was ready to go.I had my new Ruger .30-06 rifle with a 7-power scope. I had my pack and my sleeping bag and two days wo … [Read more...]

Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 7 of 8 (Repost)

Parts:  One — Two — Three — Four — Five — Six — Seven — Eight Stomping KittensIn America there is a safety-conscious social force backed up by the power of law – and constantly reinforced by frequent and large lawsuits – that decrees that every tiniest hint of danger must be stamped out of every activity. People must be taken care of.Even in the midst of our riskiest pastimes, we do everything possible – which is always considerable – to eliminate the risk. The requirement fo … [Read more...]

Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 6 of 8 (Repost)

Parts:  One — Two — Three — Four — Five — Six — Seven — Eight Technological ManGuns. Fire. Helicopters. Radios. Infrared sights. Light-amplifying night scopes. Binoculars. Poisons. Traps. Electrified fences. Bulldozers. Chainsaws. Fishing nets. Maps.We humans live in a society where we can draw on the accomplishments and assets not only of our own families, not only of our own acquaintances, but the intellectual fruits of literal geniuses for the last ten thousand years.C … [Read more...]