Fear Of Whales

Archive for December, 2010


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Note: This is Part 4 is a series on Santa Clause. If you are reading through the archives you will want to Start with Part 1, and then read 2, and 3 before this one.

In the last three posts I have demonstrated that If Santa ever existed, he’s dead now, And then I demonstrated that he did and does exist and pitiful is the man who can’t understand it. In the last post I pulled the two perspectives into a single article to show the controversy in tension. In this article I intend to resolve it.

The resolution of course will prove more fantastic than the problem. How could a problem like this have a simple resolution? If I gave a simple scientific answer I would fail to acknowledge the significance of the Virginia Letter. And if I insisted despite evidence that Santa exists despite overwhelming evidence and consensus to the contrary I would have to acknowledge that that is indeed the definition of “psychosis”

If I had to pick one, I’d be Psychotic. hands down. I’ve read Don Quixote, I know what’s up. But I have something else planned.

But I don’t have to choose. I say both are true! A and Non-A. Belief in Santa is both foundational and ridiculous. disbelief is both reasonable, and small minded.

How is that? how can it be that I can so brazenly affirm a contradiction? That I can violate a fundamental law of logic? Well I’ll tell you.

Hopefully it’s clear that what we’re dealing with here is an epistimological clash (big words, I know, I’ll explain) The argument consists of “ships passing in the night”. The don’t really argue against one another, only for themselves. The reason they don’t refute another is because they can’t. And the reason they can’t is because they don’t understand one another!

The Savvy Santa Advocate, and the Savvy Santa Denier think differently on a foundational level. Their ideas about what truth is and how it is obtained (their epistemologies) are contrasted.

In this particular case it’s easy to recognize, all the talk about sentimentality and magic on one side versus all the math and physics on the other makes it obvious, but epistemological clash is actually a common problem (Here’s an example with two kinds of math geekery)

So if I want to pick a single conclusion. I need to pick a single way of looking at the world. Is the world best understood through Sound logic, good reason, and mathematics. Or is there something beyond and besides that which is much grander and yet much more basic, something touched by poetry and music.

And both are true.

They’re true each in their own way, and both are right about Santa, each in their own way.

No Homo Sapiens come down the chimneys of the good gentile children on christmas eve. The flues are usually shut. But it is NOT just a lie we tell children. No way! It’s much much more than that.

Merry Christmas

Written by RyanGaffney

December 23rd, 2010 at 12:32 am

The Controversy

without comments

Those articles are both cute, but I also think they do a better job than I could of articulating an important point about Santa Clause. They say exactly opposite things, but yet each, in it’s own way, very meaningfully demonstrate that their point is correct.

The first article proves belief in Santa is irrational, utterly, ludicrously irrational. The mathematics don’t work! There is no way a reasonably intelligent person could grow up and still believe in Santa Clause.

I suspect the second perspective will be the harder sell for most of you (there are a lot of disbelievers in America today) but it makes a strong point against such argumentation. It’s “not comprehensible to their little minds” and they fail to realize that “The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see”

Expanding on the argument: I’d point out that every year at christmas time good boys and girls all over the world are given gifts for which credit is given to Santa Clause. Much more than a single Lego set, children receive their hearts desires from anonymous givers over and over again year after year. hearts are warmed and people buy gifts for one another, and for their children, and for other children in families they’ll never meet, so that they too can have a Merry Christmas.

You say the sleigh can’t go that fast, I say it’s magic! Deal with it, you can’t argue with results.

Yes yes, sure sure, say the rationalists. But being a good skeptical observer means not attributing to magic what can be explained by guilt and sentimentality. People buy those presents with money made of dollars and cents, not hopes and dreams. Certainty christmas results in some wonderful things, it also results in some terrible things like debt and suicide. People are nice to each other at christmas, isn’t that alone enough without externalizing it and putting it in a red suit?

But the believers reply “Is it enough?” Enough for What? For you? Maybe. Apparently! It it enough to explain that between Black Friday and Christmas Eve the entire polarity of our economic system reverses to allow for customers shopping for others more often than themselves? No it isn’t.

It it enough to explain a phenomenon so fantastic as millions of people who do not believe in Jesus taking time out of their lives to celebrate Christmas and engage in sacrificial giving to the point that the Christians actually get annoyed by it? No, that’s too incredible!

Here’s the thing:

1700 years ago a Turkish man named Nikolaos made a habit of giving secret gifts to the underprivileged and to this very day And children keep watch by night for Saint Nick despite the most powerful forces the world has ever seen rising and falling, despite the world being changed on an unimaginable scale since the 4th century. His random acts of kindness continue.

It’s remarkable. Say the engineers of the world. but it’s no reason to lie to children! So there is a sentimentality of the season that’s been socially reinforced thanks to a series of fantastic coincidences. There is still no fat man with a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

Yes there are there was one at the mall!

He was just an actor.

No he wasn’t! He wasn’t just an actor, he was also Saint Nick to thousands of children. He was also a guy named Harvey, he wasn’t “just” anything! Nothing is “just” anything. Don’t you see?

No! No I don’t see. And if you do you’re delusional.

I’ll conclude this controversy in my next post. Stay tuned!

Written by RyanGaffney

December 21st, 2010 at 12:19 am

Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Clause

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This one is something of a rebuttal to the last. Even though it was written about 100 years earlier. It’s a response of a Newspaper editor to a little girl on Santa Clause. You may have already seen it, but it’s worth another read. Note how artfully he forms the argument so that he never has to lie (unless you count “Yes there is a Santa Clause” as a lie, which you won’t after reading this)

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Written by RyanGaffney

December 16th, 2010 at 12:06 am

Posted in Santa,Uncategorized

On Santa Clause (A Rational Perspective)

with 3 comments

Today I want to share with you one of my all time favorite Christmas writings. It’s posted elsewhere on the net, but I think it deserves another post. If you can. Try to read it out loud. It’s even funnier that way.

There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist (except maybe in Japan) religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the population reference bureau). At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household that comes to 108 million homes presuming there is at least one good child in each. Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second.

This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stocking, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get onto the next house. Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks.

This means Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second – 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run at 15 miles per hour.

The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized LEGO set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself.

On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the “flying” reindeer can pull 10 times the normal amount, the job can’t be done with eight or even nine of them -Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch). 600,000 tons travelling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance – this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.

The lead pair of reindeer would adsorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporised within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.

Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 m.p.s. in .001 seconds, would be subjected to  acceleration forces of 17,000 g’s. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

Therefore, if Santa did exist, he’s dead now. Merry Christmas.

Written by RyanGaffney

December 14th, 2010 at 12:04 am

Posted in Santa,Uncategorized

God is Not in Danger of Ceasing

with 6 comments

I get in a lot of theological conversations with people. It’s my job. I rely heavily hypothetical questions as a tool to get Christians off of the script and begin thinking with their logic centers as opposed to memory centers.

Usually from there we end up at some sticking point. A theological of philosophical principal which is unsupported, but fiercely protected often to a believers detriment.

Calvinism is a big one for a lot of believers, they feel that if God sends people to hell he is unfair, and he would cease to be God. On the other side of the issue there are some 5 Point Calvinists who think that if God didn’t choose and foreknow, then he must be only partly sovereign, and partly knowing and would therefore cease to be God.

…If he did he’s probably cease to be God

For some people it’s not Calvinism at all, I spoke to a person recently who’s sticking point was comprehensibility. He kept saying “But God’s logical, he made logic” as he struggled wit the idea that something might be true of God that he didn’t understand yet, because in his mind if God stopped making sense he would cease to be God.

Sometimes the sticking point will find me. “Omnipotence doesn’t mean God can do anything” said one person “For instance: he can’t lie”. Sure God can lie. I can lie, God could totally lie! He doesn’t and I’m very thankful for that, but if he chose to what would stop him? “If God lied he would cease to be God”…no…

We get very defensive over these sticking points, we dig our feet into the ground and won’t budge, there’s a lot of fear involved. Sometimes this fear leads us to stay around toxic people or churches despite our better judgment, or to push away newer more mature ideas and fear learning because it may cause us to doubt. In short, fear leads to dogmatism

I’m going to go out on a limb and say I think I know where all this fear is coming from. I think it’s this ceasing to be God business.

Where did we get the idea that any number of things would cause God to cease to be God?

Where did we get the idea that anything would cause God to cease to be God?

Is God Mr. Mxyzptlk, where if you can get him to say his name backwards he loses his powers?

God is not in danger of ceasing. Honestly, Not even close! There are no other qualified applicants for the position. God could spend all day being Calvinic, Arminian, Illogical, and Dishonest all at the same time if he wanted to and he would still be God. This one time, God totally DIED and he’s still God after that. God became a baby and pooped his pants while still retaining the fullness of the godhead bodily.

If God were to stop being God it would be his greatest miracle yet I assure you. It would not be a side affect of anything. I don’t know when we started thinking it sounded smart to say that, but please let’s stop. I think it’s hurting us.

Written by RyanGaffney

December 11th, 2010 at 12:02 am

Misquoting Beeblebrox

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WARNING: This article may contain spoilers to “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy”. If you somehow haven’t read that book yet, Go read that first! It’s great!

One social group I tend to have an easy time getting along with is Atheists. Ultimately I think they’re dead wrong about the origins and state of the universe, but they tend to be groovy people in the meantime, and typically they’re intelligent and logically consistent. And if there’s one thing atheists love it’s Douglas Adams, the author of “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy”

Atheists often use Adams as a poet laureate of their worldview, using his words and characters to make analogies about atheist thinking, and add spice to statements made about how great it is to live with neither gods nor masters. Much like the way we use Tolkien

The New Atheists seem especially fond of this. For instance Richard Dawkins, in his book “The God Delusion” in order to defend the premise that the world is wonderful enough on it’s own, and we shouldn’t need to invent a “creator” or any such silliness to appreciate it, quotes Hitchhikers:

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

Or sometimes I’ll hear another phrase from the book used as a rallying cry for logical atheists who find the whole idea or theism self contradictory

“And God disappeared in a puff of logic”

That sort of thing

But I must say, I finally finished “Hitchhikers” this morning and I’m disappointed.

Not in the book of course, the book was brilliant, but I’m disappointed in my atheist brothers and their interpretation of the text. I don’t at all see what they seem to see in the book, and in fact I see some very Pro-Christian ideas.

First of all, all of the quotes I’d heard before turned out to be taken utterly out of context. The bit about God disappearing comes from a very tongue-in-cheek argument against the existence of God that relies on 3 false premises that don’t support the conclusion.

In context it’s quite clear that the intent of the author is to make fun of philosophy, not theism. Adams is saying that Philosophers will argue about the existence of God no matter what, such that even if incontrovertible proof of intelligent design were to be found, it would be used by the philosophers to disprove God (who said He would leave room for faith) as much as to prove him.

Adams returns to this theme in a later chapter (25), introducing a philosopher called Majikthise who is upset that a machine is being used to calculate answers to life’s mysteries saying

“What’s the use of our sitting up half the night arguing that there may or may not be a God if this machine only goes and gives you his bleeding phone number the next morning?”

Same message, same point, but this time God clearly exists (the capitalization is Adams’)

As to the Garden with the fairies? That’s from the mind of Ford Prefect who is appreciating a binary sunrise on what he thinks is a perfectly normal planet, rather than the legendary planet Magrathea. It doesn’t have to be Magrathea in his mind, it’s good enough already…

…Except that in the book it totally IS the legendary planet, and Ford is missing it.

What a fitting analogy for Dawkins. Yes Dr. Dawkins, you’re quite right, the earth would be enough if there were no God… But there is a God… So what’s your point? You’re acting like Ford Prefect visiting Magrathea while grumbling that this normal planet isn’t enough as it is.

Ultimately Adams, though an atheist, ends up writing a book which doesn’t threaten Christendom, but casts a dark shadow on Scientific Naturalism.

The Guide Itself is a comprehensive book written over many centuries by multiple authors about how best to get through life. Sound familiar? Within the pages, Adams consistently upholds the value and importance of asking how and why questions about the nature of the universe, while still expressing comfort in mystery

He upholds creationism, with the earth having been intelligently designed and created by something which is, in his own words “needlessly messianic”.

He describes the burial of fossils, the sculpting of coastlines, calls glaciers “high art” and as to scientific naturalism, in Chapter 30 The Planet Engineer says this

“Science has achieved some wonderful things of course but I’d rather be happy than right any day”

Put that in your reductionist pipe and smoke it.

Written by RyanGaffney

December 6th, 2010 at 12:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized


with 6 comments

“We could play ‘Uproar’ She said”

I cringed. I had no idea what kind of game “Uproar” was going to be. But I was sure it was going to be some squeaky clean mixer game like Charades, or Pictionary, that I had played one too many of, only more christiany.

Jill continued “It’s like a mix between Charades, Taboo, and Pictionary”


Jill is one of the most stereotypical Christian girls I know of. She’s  reasonably attractive, but very plain, engaged (of course) to a immaculate Christian Security Guard. She herself? she’s a teacher. She avoids R-rated movies, plays poker only when the chips have no cash value and we share them if someone runs out and speaks in a particular christian-girl cadence that gets higher near the end of a sentence, making everything sound like it’s a question. And boy does she love mixer games! Especially the “rules” part of mixer games, this girl loves rules!

And in case you can’t tell, I can’t stand her

Which is odd, It’s odd for two reasons, One for me and one for her.

It’s odd for me because I don’t have trouble getting along with most people. I spend time with debaters, unicyclers, philosophers, artists, athletes, Asians, anteaters… the list goes on. It’s unusual for me to be put off by a people group.

And it’s odd for Jill because she’s there’s nothing exactly wrong with her. It’s not like she’s some kind of hypocrite (not any more than average) she’s a good person, she’s polite, I’m sure she’s nice to her neighbors, she probably votes, and she’s actively involved in making the word a better place by building up special needs children… I didn’t mention that did I? I said teacher, yeah, she’s a special-ed teacher.

See I often have problems getting along with really Christian Christians, but usually I can find some reason. Usually they are stupid, or useless, or dogmatic, or judgmental. Jill is none of those things. She’s just flipping annoying.

And so she’s a proof of concept for me that I don’t just dislike certain things common to Christians. I actually Dislike Christians. The personality traits that for me represent someone I’d like to spend time with, and the personality traits that I see expressed in a typical Christian, are worlds apart.

And this all makes me wonder “why?” Why should Christians be like this? Why does the average christian young person play Apples to Apples more often than he takes communion?

How did there get to be a standard christian dress code?

When did Jesus add the admonition to the Lords Prayer that the names of God needed to be spoken more often in any prayer than all the other words combined

“Lord, we just ask Lord That Lord You Lord would act Lord God, and God Lord Jesus join us Lord in Lord Our Lord Worship Lord God Jehova Jirah Jesus God El Shaddai Lord my aunts cancer, Eloheim Lord Logos God Holy Spirit Lord Lord…”

And when… When the HELL did the community surrounding the BIBLE be the same community that’s perpetually preoccupied with simple answers, black and white thinking, and comprehensive lists of rules? How in the world did they get this from that?

God gave us 10, Jesus reduced it to 2. Now I have more than 100 just governing what I have to do before a first date! Where did that come from?

The answer is I don’t know. But my friend “MB” has a theory. MB is a blogger and Christian leader from Iowa. Her blog can be found here. She and I have been discussing our own theologies for a few weeks by e-mail and this issue came up.

Here is my understanding of MB’s theory (my own words):

It’s all about power structures. From very early on in church history Christianity was discovered to be a powerful tool for gaining political power and it still is. These power people then govern the church in a way that encourages the things they like (power, rules, simplicity, submission, tradition) and discourages the Christ-like things they don’t like (Sacrifice, authentic humility, ambiguity, complexity, rebelliousness, vulnerability) until such things begin to permeate the culture.

Now Sunday school teachers are not actively and consciously trying to gain tremendous power and influence, but might make it a point to be the only one with the keys to the craft closet, because she likes being indispensable, and the next generation being raised up in that Sunday School will get along more easily with their teacher and their peers if they jump in the bandwagon and act like everyone else, so the cycle repeats and perpetuates.

Until now, people begin to feel out of place even around powerless churchgoers, simply because power structures have imprinted these unwritten rules on our collective unconscious.

…Like I said I don’t know if that’s it, but it’s certainly the closest think I’ve ever heard to an explanation that makes sense, and it’s certainly an idea that’s going to haunt me…

Written by RyanGaffney

December 1st, 2010 at 12:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized