Friday, March 13, 2015

Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth About Everything (a book review post)

So a bit of preamble about this one:
1. This is not a religious book, not in the traditional sense. The "God" Ehrenreich is talking about is not the Christian god nor any kind of monotheistic god. It is not god in any sense that we generally think about "God."
2. I've previously read a couple other of Ehrenreich's books (Nickel and Dimed and Bright-sided) and really enjoyed them. She approaches her topics with dogged determination and doesn't let go till she gets to the truth of the matter. I've never, however, taken the time to learn anything about her other than that she was a journalist who eased into books. As it turns out, her background is in science and she, in fact, has a PhD in... well, I forget in what, because she shifted what she was studying numerous times, and I forget what the doctorate finally ended up being in (and I don't feel like trying to find it, now). Something to do with immunology, though, I think. The science background explains why her investigative work has always been so thorough, though.

Speaking of science, this book contains a lot of hard science, descriptions and explanations, things I found fascinating (especially her experience with the silicon oscillations), but I can understand this being a barrier to many (maybe most?) readers. In fact, I scanned through some of the negative reviews of the book and many of them had to do with "too much science" or "I couldn't understand all the science." This book is definitely not written to be easily accessible to a large audience as her other books are. This book is personal, so all of the science, which is intensely personal to her, is left in. I'm not sure the book can even get to where it's trying to go without the science.

The other thing that can be an issue with the book is that it takes Ehrenreich a long time to get where she's going. She mentions in the foreword that there was an "event," a mystical experience, that happened to her when she was a teenager and that figuring out exactly what that was was part of the impetus for Living with a Wild God, so you start reading and expect to find out about this event and her quest, but... what you get is her childhood. And it was a horrible childhood, not that it seems she saw it that way at the time. When you grow up in that, though, you think it's normal.

It takes a long time to get to the event and, the whole time I was reading, I kept wondering what the point was of all the stuff she was telling me. Why did I want or need to know about her childhood and, well, everything else? But I trusted her, based on my prior reading experience with her (and the story she was telling really was interesting even though it seemed as if it had nothing to do with what the book was supposed to be about), to be going somewhere, so I kept reading. Then, eventually, we do get to the event, and it all made sense. I mean, without all of the background (and I do mean all of the background), I don't think you can really understand the significance of what happened and what happened after.

So I'm going to go back and say that this is not a religious book. This is not a book about how some atheist went out searching for the Truth and had a conversion experience (as in The Case for Christ). This is a book about an atheist who went out searching for the Truth and found... something. Something unexplainable. Something that isn't the "good and loving" god that Christians so often hold up as a happiness dispenser. What she found was something... primal. Chaotic. Only "good" in the sense that a storm can be good or a forest fire can be good.

This is not a book for people who already think they know it all and who think they have all the answers, especially about who and what god is. This is a book for those, like in Wizard of Oz, who are willing to look behind the curtain. Don't plan on an easy read.

45 comments:

  1. I like to get other people's perspectives on big issues. But it sounds like I might not understand this one.

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    1. JKIR,F!: You'd probably understand the important bits if you knew when to skim through the science.

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  2. The science alone would deter me. After reading your review, I think I'd rather go read The Case for Christ.

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    1. Alex: Have you not read that?

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    2. You expected a reply to your question from Alex "Hit & Run" Cavanaugh?

      ~ D-FensDogG
      'Loyal American Underground'

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    3. Stephen: No, not really, but the question had to be asked.

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  3. I'm all about looking behind the curtain! I'll keep this one in mind.

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    1. TAS: You should read her book Bright-sided. Something makes me think you'd like that one.

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    2. Hahaha! Just looked it up. Great subtitle, if nothing else. Thanks for the recommendation.

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    3. TAS: It is a great subtitle. It's my favorite book of hers.

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  4. You didn't really sell me on this book, but you've made me curious. Maybe if I see it for a dollar somewhere or if I ever go to the library again and this book happens to catch my eye at the moment, then maybe I might read it. But I don't think I'd go out of my way to look for it or spend any of my nickels and dimes to get it--well unless it was really cheap.

    I do like books that ask questions though and the ones that make me think a bit.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Lee: I think Nickel and Dimed is one you'd like more, though it doesn't exactly ask the same kinds of philosophical questions that you like.

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    2. I've had my eye on that book since it came out. In fact I might even have a copy that I've yet to read, but I don't quite remember if I ever actually purchased a copy or not. I know I thought about it.

      Lee

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    3. Lee: It's a good book, and she's a good writer.

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  5. This book was too hard! One star! I love the one star reviews on Netflix, too, the ones that say "wouldn't play for me!" :)

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    1. L.G.: Or the ones on Amazon where something gets damaged during shipping.
      Seriously?

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  6. I love hard science stuff, so that sounds good to me. That sounds really interesting. I'll have to put it on my list.

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    1. Jeanne: I think you would especially enjoy Bright-sided.

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  7. I'm sure the science would go over my head.

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    1. Pat: She does get into some pretty hardcore stuff at various points.

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  8. Intriguing. I'll check it out, maybe. I wonder if it's an audiobook; might make for interesting drives to and from Milwaukee.

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  9. Some of the MOST powerful pro-God books are LOADED with hard-core SCIENCE! God IS the INVENTOR of Science! How could anyone NOT think they would find evidence FOR God in Science?!

    Psalm 19:1
    The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
    And their expanse is declaring the work of His Hands.

    I have read MANY books pertaining to God. Some from personal experience, and some from an objective, Scientific point-of-view.

    Every book I have ever read related to God, from a so-called "Scientific" point-of-view, that denounced the idea of God, was later proven, upon further study, to be full of bovine excrement.

    Anyone who wants to read about the possibility of God, but is intimidated by genuine, objective Scientific evidence, almost certainly belongs to the "virtual", tattooed, fallen generation of the very late 20th Century and early 21st Century Americonned People (and their counterparts around the world).

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. Stephen: The science in this book is unrelated to the question of God. It is there to show the kind of person she, the kind who looks for hard, empirical facts. Her book is more about asking the questions and demonstrating that science can't always answer the questions we have.

      Which is why science cannot (at least, not right now) prove the existence of God. Science can support the existence of some kind of higher design, but it can't prove anything about God one way or the other.

      Of course, then you have to take into account the Adam's view: Upon proving the existence of God with science, faith was invalidated and, thus, God ceased to exist in a puff of logic.

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    2. Hmmm... Not really sure I've got a handle on what this book is all about and what this woman intended to illustrate by it. But it doesn't matter anyway, because my To Be Read list is way too long now, and it's highly unlikely I'd be putting her book under my microscopes to be analyzed by me anytime soon... or ever.

      Agreed that science does not PROVE the existence of God. And it likely never will because, as you mentioned, it would make faith unnecessary, and faith seems to be an integral part of God's plan with us.

      However, for a very, very long time, the public has been deliberately misled to believe that God, religion and spirituality are incompatible with science, and that is one of the biggest lies ever shoved down the throats of the people.

      Objective, honest science overwhelmingly - and I mean OVERWHELMINGLY! - indicates the existence of an ultra-super-intelligent Creator. (Also, there is a lot of interesting mathematical evidence to indicate that The Bible was indeed a Supernaturally developed Divine message.)

      I used to love debating the Darwinists and other Evolutionists because they thought they'd buffalo me with the crap they usually get away with when debating believers. But I wouldn't let them get away with ANY assumptions, and I'd test their science, challenge them to prove their assertions, and correct their errors (both the inadvertent and the deliberate). Needless to say, they'd disappear before long and go look for easier prey.

      ~ D-FensDogG

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    3. Stephen: Let me say it like this:
      She started out a confirmed atheist. Empirical data only. The full thing. What she came away with is that there must be something else out there. Something that science can't measure. Experiences that science has no way of explaining. Stuff science might not ever be able to explain.

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    4. Andrew ~
      Ahh, OK, got it! Thanks for the further explanation.

      In other words, this woman "started out a confirmed atheist - empirical data only". There are immediately TWO problems with that.

      1) To BEGIN as a confirmed atheist is indicative of a mind that is prejudiced from the start and intellectually dishonest. A person who is intellectually honest would begin as an agnostic - not leaning one way or the other.

      2) "Empirical data", objectively analyzed, does NOT lead to an atheistic mind-set.

      So, when it's all boiled down, what we have is a book written by a woman who confesses her earlier shortsightedness and now acknowledges that there might be more to the story than she originally believed, that there might be something beyond science (e.g., some spiritual or unseen force that science can't prove or measure).

      That is to say, she has finally reached the stage where I was forty-flippin'-years ago. She's making money by testifying that she's reached the level of awareness that I had when I was fifteen years old.

      Man, I'm in the wrong business!

      Yeah, definitely WON'T be wasting my time on this book. But I hope it won't take her another 40 years to catch up to where I am now. (Which is still a long, long way from where I should be.)

      Thanks for being patient and explaining this in more detail, Andrew. I realize we are not disputing each other here, that we have nuttin' to debate one another about regarding this topic. But, frankly, I think this woman should probably be spanked rather than promoted in any way.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      'Loyal American Underground'

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    5. Stephen: I think it's probably not fair to say that she was "intellectually dishonest." She was how she was raised which, in truth, is how most of us are.

      And I'm not really sure how or why spanking comes into this.

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    6. It's TOTALLY FAIR to say she was "intellectually dishonest". It doesn't make any difference HOW she got to be "intellectually dishonest", because I merely stated a FACT, without speculating on the "why" of it. (If you want to speculate on the "why" of it, that's fine, but it DOESN'T change the fact of the matter.)

      Aside from that, "assuming" she was raised to be "intellectually dishonest" about God, spirituality, something beyond materialism, how many years or decades did she have to turn away from the conditioning of her youth and reexamine the facts in an objective manner? How long can a person use "how I was raised" as an excuse for being deceived and deceiving?

      And she deserves to be spanked because just think of all the people this "scientist" - with her supposed esteemed credentials - likely (yes, speculation, but warranted) adversely influenced AWAY from the idea of "something spiritual or supernatural" during her decades of "confirmed" (i.e., strident) "atheism" (based on a lack of understanding and honest inquiry).

      True, each person is responsible for the Truth or the poison they allow into their minds. But the person who aids and abets falsehood also carries some responsibility.

      As always, very... interesting... talking to you, Andrew. Adios.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      'Loyal American Underground'

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    7. Stephen: No, "dishonesty" implies a willfulness. That's when you purposefully mislead someone when you know something else is true. If you tell someone something you believe that later turns out to be wrong, that is not being "dishonest."

      I mean, let's pretend that super powerful aliens land on the planet tomorrow and reveal that they are responsible for life on Earth; would you say that would make you "intellectually dishonest"?

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    8. "Dishonesty"? "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is" within the word 'dIShonesty'.

      No, but seriously...

      Every reasonably intelligent person knows there is more than one type of falsehood. Examples: There is the lie of commission. The lie of omission. And the lie of silence, when a person keeps quiet rather than challenging a falsehood known to be false.

      Likewise, there is more than one type of "Intellectual Dishonesty", but the most common meaning of that expression implies that someone deliberately neglects to view the whole picture, to analyze and weigh all of the details of something before arriving at a strongly held position on the matter. Very often (although not always) "intellectual dishonesty" is utilized by the person so they can retain the belief they WANT to hold, avoiding information they know might be too challenging to their desired opinion. In other words, "Don't confuse me with facts to the contrary".

      The "super powerful aliens" question? Not just super and not just powerful, but BOTH? Hmmm...

      No, if "super powerful aliens" landed and claimed to have created us, it would NOT mean I had been intellectually dishonest, for a couple reasons:

      1) There is no solid body of evidence to indicate that this even MIGHT be true.

      2) I spent decades studying the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial beings, UFOs, and other related material. I have looked into this objectively and in a great deal of depth and I arrived at my conclusions in a completely honest way, without avoiding any evidence and without "trying" to make it come out one way over another, or giving more weight to one side of the argument than the other.

      Now, you know who else is "intellectually dishonest", Andrew? The person who will bend over backwards, and even try to very strictly define certain terms to favor their view (when they know perfectly well that their chosen definition isn't even the most commonly held one) all in order to avoid having to admit that the other person has actually made some good, valid points.

      Yes, that's another form of "intellectual dishonesty", Andrew.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      'Loyal American Underground'

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    9. And, Stephen, there is the kind of intellectual dishonesty that says "I have the only valid opinion. In fact, mine is not even an opinion, and it is infallible. Because I am infallible." That, in fact, is the worst form of intellectual dishonesty, because it fills the holder of it with a pompous belief of being correct and invalidates the experience of other people. Then, there is "offensive intellectual dishonesty" which suggests that other people should be punished (spanked) for holding non-aligned views.

      That you cannot see that my hypothetical situation was hyperbole used to highlight the question that one may not hold all of the facts is suggestive of the level of dishonesty that you have with yourself.

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    10. And you STILL can't bring yourself to say it, can you, Andrew?

      I gave a fine answer to your hyperbolic question. You asked me if that "alien" scenario (should it occur) would mean I had been intellectually dishonest. I told you it wouldn't, and I explained to you VERY SPECIFICALLY WHY it wouldn't. Don't like the honest answer? Oh well...

      "The punishment" (which was also, obviously, hyperbolic) would NOT have been for holding "non-aligned views", but for misleading others about the most important thing there is via her own intellectual dishonesty. (And your spin never stops!)

      And FYI... there ARE some things that are genuine facts. Not EVERYTHING is a mere "opinion". But trying to get people who don't do thorough enough researching to realize this is quite impossible.

      I'll not waste any more of our time with this pointless discussion. My work is done here.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      'Loyal American Underground'

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    11. The problem, Stephen, is that you couldn't even acknowledge the question. Your response was, "Well, that can't happen, so I have no need to answer you." You have so decided that you have ALL of the answers that you can'r acknowledge that there can be other views or other paths. In short, you are the absolute worse kind of Christian out there. The kind who is out beating people with what is "right" and believing that that will somehow make them want to submit to you and judgemental "rightness." All you do is scare people away.

      Maybe you should go back and really study the writings of C.S. Lewis. People operate within the Truth they are given. That's the best they can do. It's not for anyone else to berate or punish them for it.

      And you're right, it is pointless as a discussion, because you're not discussing anything. You came in to passively dismiss another person's journey as flawed because "she has finally reached the stage where I was forty-flippin'-years ago." I'm just going to say it: YOU are where I was 30-flippin-years ago. My excuse is that I was still a teenager. Somehow, I don't think you have anything to excuse your behavior.

      So, yes, as a discussion: pointless. But, maybe, someone else can take something out if it.

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    12. I'm NOT a "Christian" in any way YOU imagine it. That's an assumption on your part. You're full of 'em!

      C.S. Lewis was a brilliant man, but he was flawed like the rest of us. His writings are NOT the "Holy Grail".

      ~ D-FensDogG
      POSTSCRIPT: Deactivating the "Notify Me Via Email" program NOW because I can't bear to read one more (truth-distorting) word you write.

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    13. P.S. ~
      What I meant by the "Christian" remark is that I hold PLENTY of "non-aligned views".

      ~ D-FensDogG

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    14. Stephen, whether you're here or not: You've made it so that I don't have to imagine anything. You've laid it all out in plain view for everyone to see. There are no assumptions here. Not that your "you're full of 'em" makes any sense at all in any kind of context.

      And you're right, C.S. Lewis is not the guy you need to read. Clearly, you are head and shoulders above Lewis. You need to go back and read the words of Jesus. Or was just a flawed man, too?

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    15. Part 1:

      *DING!* ROUND TWO...

      You made a mistake by calling me back here, ANDREW LIEON. I had indeed deactivated the 'Email Comment Notification' system and had NO INTENTION of returning here again.

      But being the pseudo-intellectual you are, you weren't bright enough to just leave it alone and move on. No, "smart boy" that you are, yesterday, you had to post the following comment on the blog 'A Beer For The Shower', where you figured I might see it:

      "Oh, and speaking of giant douche bags, you should go read the comment section of my review of Living with a Wild God."

      Well, I saw it. That's the ONLY thing you've been right about.

      "Giant douche bag", eh? Oh, how unique and ultra-clever of you, Andrew! Exactly the sort of 9th grade playground put-down I would expect from an unoriginal mind like yours.

      OK, you want to keep it going? Fine by me. Now we'll finish what we started, you "Father Majeski with the beard". (Don't think you can end the nightmare by deleting comments, because I've got a copy of each one.)

      Let's recap:
      The PRIMARY POINT I was making is that Barbara Ehrenreich is apparently an opportunist capitalizing on her new-found awareness that there just might be "something" - some creative force - in existence that science can't measure and prove. It only took this "CONFIRMED atheist" - ("confirmed" being "indicative of a mind that is prejudiced from the start") [3/27/2015; 7:01 PM] - six+ decades to arrive at this fantastic realization. I simply stated that only an "intellectually dishonest" researcher (i.e., someone who deliberately avoided analyzing evidence contrary to their preferred paradigm) could take THAT long to reach THAT slim point of knowledge. But...

      ...you're like Mr. Washing Machine, Andrew: you twist everything around and spend a lot of time in the "spin" cycle. You implied that I was simply about invalidating "the experience of other people" [3/29/2015; 4:30 PM]. I don't know if it's that you are simply too dense to follow a logical statement (typical of liberals), or just a deliberate liar trying to turn things upside down to gain an imaginary upper hand.

      Incidentally, there are reviews at Amazon by readers who also noted the selective way she examined and considered evidence. One example, Mr. Frederick T. Williams says of a "mystical" experience Ehrenreich recounts having had: "Yet what does she do with this apparently profound experience of altered consciousness? She proceeds to shut it out of her mind and life, figuratively running away from it, and proceeds to compartmentalize it into her rigidly atheistic, materialist world-view."

      Yeah, that's really an intellectually honest seeker of truth who follows where the evidence leads, isn't it, Andrew?

      You deliberately tried to redefine the term "intellectually dishonest" to mean something that it does not, and you attempted to attach your distorted definition to what I had implied [see: 3/28/2015; 8:20 AM]

      You claimed that I had NOT answered your extraterrestrial "aliens-as-creators" scenario question.

      On 3/29/2015; 4:57 PM, you wrote (and I quote), The problem, Stephen, is that you couldn't even acknowledge the question. Your response was, "Well, that can't happen, so I have no need to answer you".

      Is that REALLY what my response was, Andrew Lieon?

      Well, in the first place, if I had really said, "...that can't happen, so I have no need to answer you", then I DID in fact "ACKNOWLEDGE" your question, didn't I? (Pretty sloppy with your words for a "professional writer" and "intellectual", aren't you? And what's with the quotation marks around words that I never really wrote?)

      Continued Below...

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    16. Part 2 Of 2:

      Secondly, let's go back and see what I REALLY said in response to your "alien" question...

      3/29/2015; 12:48 PM - Stephen T. McCarthy sez: "...if super powerful aliens landed and claimed to have created us... [Are you still with me, bright boy? I'm acknowledging your scenario and saying "IF" this really did happen] ...it would NOT mean I had been intellectually dishonest, for a couple reasons:

      1) There is no solid body of evidence to indicate that this even MIGHT be true.

      2) I spent decades studying the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial beings, UFOs, and other related material. I have looked into this objectively and in a great deal of depth and I arrived at my conclusions in a completely honest way, without avoiding any evidence and without "trying" to make it come out one way over another, or giving more weight to one side of the argument than the other."


      So, Andrew, did I or did I NOT acknowledge your question and answer it very specifically? So what's the story with you? Are you just totally unable to focus and remember what has been said from one comment to the next? Or do you lie deliberately? Huh? Obtuse or lying? Answer the question, boy! Which is it?!

      Andrew, you said to me: "You need to go back and read the words of Jesus. Or was just a flawed man, too?"

      FYI, I've read all of His words at least 30 times, and some of them probably a HUNDRED times. I've read the entire Bible from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21 a total of 20 or 21 times, and in multiple translations from the King James to the English translation of the ancient Aramaic.

      Now, maybe you should suggest to your goddess, Barbara Ehrenreich, that SHE read the words of Jesus and objectively consider the evidence for The God of The Bible and "the case for Christ". After all, she's the one really in the dark, who has only now come to suspect that there just MIGHT be something else out there beyond the material world... maybe.

      Well, that's A LONG WAY from acknowledging THE CREATOR. The Muslims, too, believe in a god. And there is also a "serpent" out there, the "father of lies". How do you know he isn't the "something" your goddess is now acknowledging? So, save your reading suggestion for someone who needs it even more than I do. (Right now I'm at Psalm 130 and will complete yet another trip through The Bible by 12/31/2015.)

      And why do I have the feeling that one reason you felt so compelled to try to defend your goddess from my accurate charge of "intellectual dishonesty" might have had something to do with her being co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, a feminist, and having deep ties to 'Mother Jones' magazine?

      Vultures of a feather circle together.

      Now, Andrew Lieon, aren't you just so pleased with yourself for having called me a "giant douche bag" on someone else's blog? Was it worth it? Huh? Speak up, Pseudo-Intellectual 9th-Grade-Playground-Boy, I can't hear ya!

      OK, your turn to try landing a punch in Round Two.
      (Don't hurt yase'f.)

      ~ D-FensDogG
      'Loyal American Underground'

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    17. LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL
      Man, you make me not have to say anything at all to prove my stance. And you use a lot of words to say absolutely nothing, oh you worshiper of the neo-Hitler McCarthy.

      Now, let's get one thing cleared up right at the start. This is not your street corner where you get to public declare you spittle under as freedom of speech. You have come into my house as a guest, the most rude and uncivilized guest I've ever had. In fact, you are the epitome of the small-minded dogmatic non-thinker we studied in my abnormal psych class. The guy who's brain had become so rigid as to not be able to look at anything outside of his own carefully crafted, tiny box where he chooses to live. Yes, I said -abnormal- psych.

      Having said that, NO, you have still not even acknowledged the alien question. You AGAIN answered that (by repeating your previous answer) by saying, "That can't happen." The funny this is that you're the only one who can't see the meaning behind your own answer. When faced with an "if" question, the correct response is NEVER, "Well, I already researched that, and it's not possible."

      So a few of things about rigid, dogmatic thinkers (redundant, I know):
      1. They are unable to empathize. This means that they're first reaction to any foreign experience is to dismiss it, because they are unable to view the situation from any standpoint but their own.
      2. They are unable to engage in hypothetical situations. They feel that they already have all the answers and can't stretch their brains enough to encompass an idea that isn't already in their heads.
      [I think you have clearly demonstrated points 1 and 2.]
      3. They are "not smart." Let me clarify that. That does not mean that they are "dumb," but they are never people of above average intelligence. Part of the reason people experience dogma is the lack of intelligence to expand their brains to questions they don't know the answers to.
      [Now, I don't actually know how "smart" you are, but I think in your radical demonstrations of points 1 and 2, you have clearly encompassed point 3.]

      Now, as I said, this is MY HOUSE, not your public forum, and I'm asking you to leave. You have become an unwelcome guest.
      [And just by the way, you would be wrong to assume that I made that comment thinking you wouldn't see it.]

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  10. I would brave this- it intrigues and I like a challenge.

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  11. Andrew, you and Stephen T should collaborate on a book. You could probably get some great promotional mileage debating each other on TV and radio programs.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Lee: You can't debate with a closed mind.
      He reminds me a lot of my father when I was growing up. His recourse when he didn't have an answer for something was always, "I'm right because I say I'm right," even when the science text (or whatever) was right there in front of him with alternate information. All you can do is walk away.

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