Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oil speculators

Are speculators to blame for high oil prices?
This is a silly question but some economically illiterate people are spouting this claim.
What do oil speculators do? They puchase oil futures expecting the price will go up. As long as they expect the price to increase, the speculators will try to buy at the current price. However, if actual prices start to fall, the futures market will quickly clear. If the futures are priced higher then the market will bare, the speculators will lose money. The purpose of speculators is to buy oil when supply is high to sell when the demand is high. In this way they tend to smooth the price of oil. The smoothing is never perfect, but we have examples of markets where speculation has been banned and since the ban, prices tend to swing up and down more often.
Price swings are bad for producers. If a producer of any comodity over supplies, the market price may be too low and they may lose money. This is because of increasing marginal costs. If a producer supplies too little and the price is higher, the producer may lose out on potential profit.
Speculators prepurchase from the producers. In this way, the producers are guaranteed a set price and do not have to worry about the actual market price.
Speculation plays an important role in our economy. Stable prices ensure that producers make fewer output mistakes that might force them out of business, protecting jobs and ensuring a stable supply for consumers. Producer benefit, consumers benefit and speculators benefit.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Methodological Naturalism

How can we justify methodological naturalism. If gods are acting in the world, a methodological naturalistic bias would lead us to reject gods, demons, angels and other supernatural entities as explanations.
But how do we do science without assuming there is a natural order? How can we tell if something has a natural explanation or is of divine origin?
If miracles or other supernatural activity is allowed, the universe is no longer guided by predictable rules. If we conduct an experiment, we can never know if the results follow from the nature or caused by some supernatural being.
To allow for anything supernatural, we must reject science. We cannot have a world were the supernatural can act and where we can make accurate measurements and predictions about the natural since we are unable to rule out supernatural influence.
We can, however, assume that there is no supernatural influence. As long as our predictions and measurements are consistent, there is no reason to assume the supernatural in.
What about the soul? Don't humans and other intelligent creatures have a special aspect within, that is generally referred to as the soul? If such a thing exists, why would we assume that it is anything other then natural. If it is a part of us, then it is natural.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The end that did not happen

What should reasonable people make of the most recent wrong end of the world prophecy? Since gospel times, there have be predictions of the return of Jesus (Matthew 16: 27-28, 1 John 2:18).
Of course, since Jesus failed to fulfill the Messianic prophecies and usher in a new kingdom of Israel, his followers, in a state of cognitive dissonance, decided he would return and usher in a kingdom of heaven instead. He failed to fulfill the New Testament predictions of his soon return and continues to fail to show up.Why are people not intelligent enough to realize that the magical stories of the Bible are not true? Why do people not abandon the contradictions and false prophesies?

I predict that this is not the last false end of the world prophesy. Despite that Jesus himself supposedly predicted his return before all who were with him had perished, people continue to fall for this superstitious nonsense.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


My brother recently liked a link on Facebook that his friend put up. To read the silliness see here.
Priests and other religious folk who perform exorcisms are doing the victim a disservice. There are no such things as demons but there are serious medical conditions that, if left untreated, could kill them. As the article states, the supposed tools to use against a demon are "Faith, prayer and fasting."
Faith is belief without or despite proof. It would be just as valid to believe that the supposed possessed is being tormented by God as by a demon since both demand faith. If we abandon faith in the unseen and use our abilities to reason, we can determine the true causes of a person's problems. There is a larger reason to reject faith that I hope to write about in the future. 
Prayer has been shown to have no effect. Studies have shown that intercessory prayer is not effective. See here. The only effects seem to be psychological as shown in the study where those who knew they were being prayed for actual fared worse then either those who were not prayed for or those who were prayed for but did not know.
Fasting is one of the worst crimes exorcists commit against the supposed possessed. Forcing a sick person to starve themselves can be dangerous. Anneliese Michel died during an exorcism and was found to be severely malnourished. 
Back to the silly article, the supposed exorcist made it seem like he was asking for help in a battle with demons. God was obviously too busy to prevent the demon from possessing one of his loyal followers and could not make an appearance in the battle himself. However, Pope John Paul II seems to be rather effective in fighting the good fight. Why the late Pope might be better then Jesus or Mary, who surely have been duking it out with demons for a longer period of time, is not made clear.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Origin of Morality

One of the criticisms atheists get for Christians is about morality. If there is no God (Yahweh, Allah, etc.), what is the basis for morality. Where does morality come from?
This is the wrong question.The more important question is, what is the purpose of morality. If the purpose of morality is to be subservient to an angry deity, to abandon one's loved ones as Jesus commanded (Matt. 19:29) or in some other way serves to undermine human dignity, then it matters not where it comes from. If instead the purpose of morality is to improve man, to make him a better person and maximize his well being, then the question become relevant.
If morality is a tool of man, to improve his life, then morality can be determined through reason. It is not perfect, but claiming a perfect origin for morality is to lose the ability to judge right and wrong. To that what God deems is right is, then when confronted with a moral dilemma, such as if to kill in God's name as commanded in the Bible, you may abandon your moral sense.
Recent history is littered with examples of Christian's killing each other, killing abortion doctors, Muslims killing non-believers, the list goes on and on. And rather then using the faculty for reason, they justice clearly immoral actions in God's name.
Whether or not you believe in any god, morality must be founded on something that all mankind can use, even if they choose not to.