Category Archives: Uncategorized

On Overthrowing the (American) Government

This is a quick one so that I can try and get back into the swing of blogging again.

There’s this recurring theme among gun-ownership advocates in the US that the reason the second amendment to keep and bear arms is necessary is because the writers of the Bill of Rights had just fought a war against a government they saw as infringing on their rights, and they wanted to make sure that if the People ever needed to overthrow the government again that they would have the power to do so. Namely, that the government would not be able to take away their guns.

In an episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!, they summarize the argument:

Now, ignoring the fact that the US spends HUNDREDS of BILLIONS of dollars per year on its military, and that a handful of folks with rifles are not about to overthrow anything, let alone a nation that could blow them up with the press of a button. And ignoring the fact that apparently there’s no problem regulating certain types of arms (no second amendment defender I’ve seen has advocated for private citizens to be able to own nukes). And ignoring the fact that toppling a government these days would be more likely to involve the actions of Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden, who (as far as I’ve seen) are not being hailed as heroes by the exact people who want the freedom to topple the government.

Ignoring everything else:

If the People ever needed to overthrow the government, do they really think that doing so would be legal in the first place? Like seriously, you need the freedom to own guns just in case but if you were in open rebellion against the government I can’t even imagine how many laws you’re already breaking. You couldn’t just add “owning a prohibited firearm” to that list?

With all the gun violence we keep seeing over and over, I think there needs to be a serious question about what Americans value more: their freedom to own an assault  or sniper rifle (including one that aims at your targets for you) or the freedom to not have your kid get shot simply because he’s out walking the streets at night.

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Atheism+

In case my post from last week was ambiguous. This. Exactly this.

We are…
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.

Shoot the Canadians!

So this story has been making its way around the internets about Walt Wawra, a visitor to Calgary who was set upon by two hoodlums whom he was unable to shoot because of Canada’s over-the-top gun laws that make it illegal to, like, shoot people. It’s already been torn to shreds by the rest of the intelligent world, but it looks like fun so I want to join in. My response in red.

I recently visited Calgary from Michigan. As a police officer for 20 years, it feels strange not to carry my off-duty hand-gun. Many would say I have no need to carry one in Canada. [Some might even say you, in particular, should not be carrying a gun at all.]

Yet the police cannot protect everyone all the time. A man should be al-lowed [what?] to protect himself if the need arises. The need arose in a theatre in Aurora, Colo., as well as a college campus in Canada. [Look, there is an argument to be made that if people were “al-lowed” to carry guns, then they could be used to stop violent crimes. There’s something to this: absolutely *some* violent crimes could be stopped if the victim or witnesses were armed. Aurora was *not* such a crime. For starters, James Holmes was wearing fucking body armour. Secondly, the room was dark, loud, and filled with fucking tear gas: who knows how many other people might have been shot. Finally, if two or more of the victims had been armed, on what rational basis do you expect that they wouldn’t have been shooting at eachother? All you’d know in that situation is that there are two other people in the room who are armed threats. So pro-gun folks: fine, keep bringing up Aurora, but realize that you’re shooting yourselves in the foot (so to speak) when you do.]

Recently, while out for a walk in Nose Hill Park, in broad daylight [you know, the time of day when most violent crimes occur] on a paved trail, two young men approached my wife and me. The men stepped in front of us, then said in a very aggressive tone: “Been to the Stampede yet?”

We ignored them. The two moved closer, repeating: “Hey, you been to the Stampede yet?”

I quickly moved between these two and my wife, replying, “Gentle-men, I have no need to talk with you, goodbye.” They looked bewildered [as is typical for muggers, who can often be stopped with nothing but a request for them to leave you alone], and we then walked past them.

I speculate they did not have good intentions when they approached in such an aggressive, disrespectful and menacing manner. [Not to mention the fact that they just let you walk off without incident] I thank the Lord Jesus Christ [of course you do] they did not pull a weapon of some sort [because in America-land, you have to assume that everyone around you is armed], but rather concluded it was in their best interest to leave us alone. [-slash-left you alone because you asked them to]

Would we not expect a uniformed officer to pull his or her weapon to intercede in a life-or-death encounter to protect self, or another? [Yes, typically. But in what way was this anything resembling a life-or-death encounter? Guys walk up to you in a park, ask a question, and when rebuffed leave you alone. At what point was your life in any actual danger. The question I would love to hear Wawra answer is this: “If you had had a gun on you, would we now be reading a much more tragic story involving two dead men? With only the information available to you at the time, would you have pulled the trigger and if so would you still stand by your decision knowing now that the two men were willing to just let you walk away?] Why then should the expectation be lower for a citizen of Canada or a visitor? [Because a) police carry weapons because they are more likely to be intentionally walking into dangerous situations: that’s their job; b) police are trained, not only to wield a firearm properly but also assess whether a situation requires the use or threat of deadly force (I can only assume Wawra missed this day in police school); or c) most people aren’t walking around with a fucking gun in their pocket. Take your pick.] Wait, I know – it’s because in Canada, only the criminals and the police carry handguns. [There were 170 firearm related homicides in Canada in 2010[source]. In the US, that number was 8,775[source]. That’s 28.5 gun murders per million people in the US, or 5 gun murders per million people in Canada. You know, it’s almost as if not allowing people to carry guns around, and not constructing a society where guns are seen as “manly” or “an inalienable right” causes fewer gun deaths. Y’know, almost.]

And as a postscript to this story, there’s a possibility that the two “Nose Hill Gentlemen” were simply promoters for the Stampede handing out free passes.

“Life-or-death encounter”.

I Drew Something

This is in response to Jen McCreight’s blog post “Who are your Champions of Reason?

From left to right: Matt, PZ, JT, Natalie, Rebecca, Jen, Jessica, Tim and Greta.

Yes, I really do suck at drawing. With that in mind, I’m sorry to anyone whose features or body type I horribly mangled (in particular PZ’s elbows). Please don’t be mad, it’s all meant with love.

(And yes, I do see what’s missing, and yes it’s a problem.)

Schedule

Okay, I’m going to try and make a commitment here, which usually ends poorly for me, but I’m going to give it a go anyways.

I am going to try and post something every Sunday, at least. This will give me the week to work on it (plus the weekend where I’m not working) and hopefully by stating this on here, it will give me the drive to actually get it done.

There’s a bunch of stuff I want to talk about, but unfortunately a lot of it involves basic logic. So in addition to announcing the Sunday schedule, I’d also like to schedule my next few posts (unless something news-related comes up). I would like my next four posts will be:

  • Classical Logic III – Rules of Inference
  • Classical Logic IV – First-Order Logic
  • Set Theory I – Introduction to Sets
  • Set Theory II – Axiomatic Set Theory

With the one after that possibly being “Set Theory III – Infinite Sets”, but I might wrap that into Set Theory II.

This will allow me to move on to cooler stuff, like infinite cardinalities, enumerability (including the diagonalization argument for the non-enumerability of the reals), Turing Machines, computability (what problems can computers solve), recursive enumerability, decidability, and more. Sadly, my spell check didn’t recognize about half of those words, so clearly I must have some work to do. 😛

Anyways, hopefully that’s a taste of things to come, even if I’m just writing out into the void for my own personal amusement.

Cheers!

Introduction

Hi! My name is Zach, and this is my blog. Basically, lately, I’ve been getting the urge to write some stuff down, but the thought of actually going through and creating a blog before I could to all that seemed daunting. Thus, I have created this blog at 2 in the morning after getting home from a New Kids on the Block/Back Street Boys tour concert (don’t judge me to harshly: I work at a concert venue selling merch) so that should that need arise again, I have the option waiting here for me.

Some of the stuff I’ve wanted to write about in the past (and, thus, may in the future) is mostly to do with logic, computer science and set theory. I guess you could call this another atheist blog, too, since I plan on writing about certain atheist-related issues, but we’ll see what comes up.

One difference to a lot of blogs I’ve seen, I really want to dive into the nitty-gritty of the logic and math that I’m talking about here, so I suspect a lot of what I write will be explanations of classical logic, non-classical logics, introductory set theory, modal logic, etc so that I can move on to do cooler stuff that I think would be fun to talk about, such as Gödel’s theorems, epistemic logic, artificial intelligence, paraconsistent logics, and more. In fact, just today I learned about something cool called abductive programming which is a model for teaching machines how to make leaps in reasoning that might not necessarily be true (much like the way the human brain works). I also have some thoughts about how I think modelling a computer system after a brain works, but those are more on the philosophical side of things. I chose wordpress because I heard it has LaTeX support, which will make that easier to present. Thus, I can write cool things like:

\forall\Phi\varphi,\psi,\chi(\varphi\Phi\varphi\rightarrow(((\varphi\Phi\psi\wedge\varphi\Phi\chi)\rightarrow\psi\Phi\chi)\leftrightarrow((\varphi\Phi\psi\rightarrow\psi\Phi\varphi)\wedge((\varphi\Phi\psi\wedge\psi\Phi\chi)\rightarrow\varphi\Phi\chi))))

Which is supposed to be a sentence of second-order logic saying that any reflexive relation is euclidean if and only if it is both symmetric and transitive. But like I said, 2am… so I’m not going to proof read it. Even if I did, those words probably won’t mean much to you… yet!

On the atheism side, I guess I’ll just talk about whatever strikes my fancy, although one thing I’d like to lead up to is a modal logic-based refutation of Matt Slick’s transcendental argument for the existence of God. It’s too late at night for me to bother looking up links, so you can Google it if you really want. That’ll take a lot of building up to, I think.

Oh, anyways, who am I? Like I said, I’m Zach. I have a BSc in Computer Science with a minor in philosophy, where I mostly focused on logic. I live in Canada, am an atheist, and a nerd.

But more from me later…