Thursday, August 18, 2022


It is my casual observation, not that I have done any kind of study on this, that people are more likely now to believe in things that are not true.  I could be wrong because maybe people have always believed in untrue things, but it feels like now we are in an epidemic of delusional thinking.  I have a few theories about why this is, which I will get to below.

I am not going to get much into specifics, because there is a wide range of opinions about what is true.  However, the pandemic seemed to bring out the craziness in some people. Regarding the pandemic, I hear questionable claims, if not outright lies frequently.  

If we want to know the truth, we have to try very hard to remain objective.  There is a difference between opinion and fact, and likewise a difference between anecdotal evidence and fact.  Whenever possible, I try to find the relevant scientific studies, which are often available on the Internet.  I am more likely to find articles talking about scientific studies, and sometimes these contain links to the actual studies, but if not, usually the studies can be found with a Google search.
I think that most people have a need to feel special.  A person could be a fireman and that would be something that makes that person special.  For this reason, I think that people get very emotionally tied to their belief systems because those beliefs help make people who they are.  Then we get into confirmation bias, where people have a natural tendency to accept things as true that already agree with their opinion.  Therefore, it is very hard to change someone's opinion because their belief is closely tied to their identity.

Social media may have hindered normal human social interaction, which tends to naturally correct aberrant behavior and thought.  People interact less than they did before in person, and more online.  If you have weird beliefs, you can find plenty of people on the Internet who agree with you and support your way of thinking.  

Some social media places like Twitter seem inherently toxic with many bad actors on those platforms.

Having a worldwide existential threat puts a strain on people's ability to think rationally.  There is a strong tendency to demonize other people, which is worse now than it has ever been in my lifetime.  People on all sides are calling for the imprisonment of their political enemies, if not threats of violence and murder.  This is where people need to step back and try to have some perspective.  Things may be difficult now, but we have it far better than the generations that came before us.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Tuesday, June 28, 2022


As far back as history has recorded, human beings for the most part have had to struggle every day just to get barely enough to eat and survive.  People led uncomfortable and difficult lives.  Mortality was high.  Things started changing in the late 1700s thanks to the Industrial Revolution, first in England and then in the United States.

People now think that crises happen on Twitter and Tik-Tok.  They make heroes out of movie stars and pop singers for singing controversial lyrics.  The real heroes stormed the beaches of Normandy and ran into the Twin Towers never to be seen again.

We are so pampered that we fret over things that would seem insane even to my parent's generation, who came out of The Great Depression and World War II.

It is time to have some perspective.


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The Orville: Immortality, Transhumanism, God and The Human Soul

The video seems to be reading a lot into a gimmicky science-fiction-babble ending. Although I disagree with the spiritual conclusion of the video, I agree that we shouldn't abandon our humanity or our human characteristics.

I have predicted that over time we will incorporate technology into us.  I claimed that eventually we might get replaced by the technology we create.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Live train accident

I have to wonder about people's common sense?   My entire philosophy of life is to not do stupid stuff.  In other words, don't take unnecessary risks.  People die from accidents all the time.  I would rather not be a statistic.

Monday, May 2, 2022

3 AWFUL Habits That Make People Instantly Dislike You

I think that this advice can be summed up as you should make other people feel involved and appreciated.

I saw another video that claimed that the way you gain confidence is to practice.  This odd advice might not seem applicable to most things, but I think that it is.   I would not be confident making a speech or in an awkward social situation, but I am pretty confident over a chessboard.  However, if I had spent 47 years making speeches then I most likely would be reasonably competent at it. 

Friday, April 29, 2022

Fascinating Facts About The Amish That Few People Know - Past Chronicles

In the 1980s, I met one Amish young man.  Somewhere between Scottsburg and Salem Indiana, there is a community of them, and I was living in Scottsburg at the time.  I only on rare occasions drove to Salem, and yet I managed to see their buggies on the road along the way.

I think that this young man may have taken a job in Scottsburg.  I think that the Amish sometimes do this to make ends meet.  

A had a casual conversation with the young man and my impression was not favorable.  He didn't seem to know hardly anything.  He was also waiting for someone to drive him home in a vehicle, oddly enough.  Maybe it is okay since he wasn't the driver.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Fwd: Matt Walsh Comments


---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: John Coffey 

On Sat, Mar 12, 2022 at 5:17 AM Larry wrote:
I'm sure you and I would disagree with Matt on one or two of his comments, but interesting discussion none the less...

On Sat, Mar 12, 2022 John Coffey wrote:

Often I see things about which I feel a need to express myself.  This is kind of a trap because I put much care into my response.  If I'm going to write something, I feel a need to write as well as I can, which takes much time.

Thanks for sharing.

My first reaction is to think that Matt is being hypocritical because of scriptures where Jesus says to turn the other cheek and resist not evil.  Matt tells the viewer to read the scriptures, but in my opinion, the Bible can lead to many contradictory beliefs, with the Old Testament being one of the more evil books ever written.

Putting my opinion on the Bible aside, it is hardly justifiable to kill someone over an insult.  I'm sure that was not the intent, but I've seen videos where people have talked about how fighting can lead to unintentional death, so the advice is to not fight.  Do I think that it is justifiable to fight given sufficient provocation?  Yes, if I feel threatened, but there might be better ways to handle it.  Run away.  Contact someone in authority.

I feel the whole thing about the victim being a child predator adds emotional language to this.  This person was likely a scumbag, but may have been mentally ill and did not deserve to die.  There should be consequences to killing someone.  I'm sympathetic to the sentence but maybe it was too light.  It sends a message that there is less consequence to violence or manslaughter if a racial slur is involved, or if the person killed is a bad person.

I'm concerned about the deterioration of society.  I feel more need to protect myself.  Given the riots that we saw over the last two years, I could see a rioter attacking either me or my family over perceived injustice.  My grandfather was dragged from his car and beaten by rioters in the Detroit area.  I'm not sure of the date, but probably 1967.


Thursday, March 3, 2022

My Facebook post from 3 years ago.

I see a danger to the future existence of the human race, and it is the kind of thing that people should think about and prepare for now. Sometime in the next 50 years, machines will be smarter than people. There are major technical hurdles to overcome, such as the inevitable end of Moore's Law, which probably means that it is not right around the corner or even within the next couple of decades, but it will happen, and easily within this century. And if for some reason it does happen within the next couple of decades then that means the results will be upon us that much sooner.
We can predict what will happen next and follow it to its logical conclusion, which is a future without people.
As machines become smarter, people will become increasingly reliant on technology. We can see that already with smartphones, which only have been with us for barely over a decade. Eventually, machines will do all the heavy mental work, which will make our lives easier, but also make us more dependent.
And since we will be so dependent on the machines, we will start incorporating them into us. This will evolve over time until we are no longer purely human, but human-machine hybrids. Perhaps when your biological brain dies, the machine part of you will be able to continue with all your memories intact. Maybe it would have an artificial body or maybe it will exist in a virtual world. It is likely that some would prefer to live in a virtual world where they can do more things than they could in the real world. Taken to the eventual extreme, our descendants would no longer bother with biological bodies and prefer to exist as machine intelligences either in the real world or in virtual ones.
The evolutionary pressure will be against purely biological people. Having machines incorporated into you will make you more productive, competitive, and increase your quality of life.
The future I describe might be long distant, but if it is not the future we want for the human race then we should start thinking about it now. Maybe we could have a Pure Human movement that would prohibit the merging of machine intelligence with human intelligence? This could be roughly analogous to the current legal ban on human cloning, because we very likely have the technology right now to clone humans, but countries ban it because they are uneasy about the implications of where that might take us.
However, we might not be able to prevent it. Linking machines with human intelligence is likely to happen in such small steps that we will easily adjust to it. It is sort of happening already with our dependence on computers. It could also start as a series of military applications where having the most effective soldiers determines who wins the wars. And once the genie is out of the bottle, we will never get it back in.
Best wishes,
John Coffey

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Jordan Peterson - Your Life Is Built For More

I am surprised at how many ideas Jordan Peterson can bring to a single conversation.  He speaks at such a high intellectual level that it takes attention to keep up.

Apparently, I can listen to him for a long time.  I thought that maybe the first hour would be the best part, but the second hour is very good too.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Meaning of Life | Philip Goff and Lex Fridman

It is an emergent property of human beings that they have multiple needs, maybe too many to count.  The meaning of life is to balance these needs because obviously, we can't have everything we want. 

I have always felt that the meaning of life was to find a purpose because most of us need to have purpose.  "The two most important days of your life are when you are born and when you find out why." - Mark Twain.

I have no idea what this guy is talking about...

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Mathematical Challenges to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

Larry wrote:

>You'll probably find this discussion to be garbage, but I think you will enjoy the discussion, the discussion style, and the men involved....

If I were a believer in creationism I would probably take this argument as definitive proof.

The claim is that the chance of producing a useful protein is around 10 to the 77nth power, making it too improbable.  I was going to make the following points:

"The fallacy here is obvious. Gelernter assumes there is a useful, pre-specified target protein that must be reached from a "nonsense" sequence of amino acids. Then he multiplies together the small probabilities needed to convert each amino acid in the starting "gibberish protein" into the ones in the final target. The resulting probability is so minuscule that, he concludes, the Darwinian evolution of useful proteins is impossible.

This argument rests on several big errors. First, evolution doesn't start with "gibberish proteins"; it continues with what it had before: useful proteins that evolved via natural selection from earlier sequences, but can still improve further. Second, evolution doesn't drive proteins toward pre-specified target sequences. All that's required for evolution to work is a mutation changing a gene (and its protein product) in such a way that the new gene leaves more copies than its antecedent. It's an incremental form of improvement, not a narrowing-in on a specified target.

In fact, we have plenty of examples, in our species and others, in which a small change in an existing protein leads to a better protein."

Even if you could make the argument that this is extremely improbable, there are 10^25 estimated planets in the Universe.  One of these could produce intelligent life that remarks on how unlikely their existence is.  We could be the only one, although I very much doubt it.  I think that the natural forces that produced us are likely to be found everywhere in the universe.

I shouldn't need to mention this since it is obvious, but we have seen the rapid evolution of the COVID virus.

It is a fallacy to say that evolution occurs gradually.  It is my understanding that modern theory claims that evolution occurs in spurts, usually in response to environmental changes.

The simplest argument for evolution goes like this:

1. The Earth is very old.

2.  Simpler organisms came before more complex ones.

3.  Therefore the complex organisms came from the simpler ones.

For 40 years I have seen arguments about why the Theory of Evolution couldn't happen, but the fact is that we know that it did happen.  It is history.  Otherwise, you would have to assume Divine Intervention every step along the way, which would still be evolution by a different means.  However, science isn't in the business of supernatural explanations.  We can leave that job to the philosophers.  Science is in the business of explaining natural causes.

One argument that I have heard is that there hasn't been enough time for all the genetic changes to accumulate in us.  This argument ignores that massive parallelism that occurs in evolution where we all might have up to billions of human ancestors.  Combinations of genes that didn't work died off, leaving the combinations that did work.  Roughly half of all pregnancies spontaneously abort before the mother knows that she is pregnant.  This is one way nature eliminates bad genetic combinations.

I was skeptical about evolution until I became a Biology major.  I studied and dissected enough animals to understand how similar we are on the inside.  The biggest differences are morphological.


Monday, December 13, 2021

How do we know if something is true?

 Let's talk about how do you know if something is true? At some point, we have to trust experts, but it becomes a question of which experts to trust? Much comes down to how much evidence they have or claim to have. We can't look at all the peer-reviewed papers out there, although I have looked at a few. It is possible to verify some of the evidence for ourselves. Much of that verification depends upon trusting the sources that we see, but when the overwhelming number of people in the scientific community back a position we can have some confidence that it is true. Still, it is good to try to verify the claims being made.

I have been trying to understand the motivation behind the conspiracy theorists which seems to me to be closely tied to the anti-vaccine movement. If a person believes that X, regardless of what X may be, is actively trying to harm us or take advantage of us, then any claim that this is the case is going to trigger a person's confirmation bias. It is going to be seen as proof that the conspiracy theory is correct, regardless of how absurd or unverifiable the claim may be.

An example of this is a friend who is pro-vaccine telling me that Pfizer, i.e. "big pharma", is trying to profiteer off of the pandemic by recommending a booster shot, and possibly a different shot for the Omicron variant. I argued that those who gave us this miracle vaccine deserve to profit from it, and we have always known that vaccine immunity may wane. We have also always known that variants may come up that might need a different vaccine.

I'm going to argue that this is not how rational people think. When you have a worldwide pandemic that has killed over 5 million people then this is a serious problem. When a vaccine is created that is almost a cure for the pandemic, it is not rational to reject it unless you have really good evidence that the vaccine is worse. When claims are made against the vaccine, a rational person would make a really strong effort to verify those claims and compare those claims to what the rest of the scientific community believes.


Saturday, October 2, 2021

Does God Exist? | Popular Writings | Reasonable Faith

I encountered this site by accident.  I clicked on the link out of curiosity.

Absolutely meaning no offense to anyone, I wanted to share the article with my religious friends who would probably like it, and share my thoughts about it.

I think that the arguments are weak.  It claims that it makes sense that there would be a god based upon what we know about the universe, the fine-tuned laws of physics, and what we know about morality.  However, that is just one explanation, filling in the supernatural for things that we do not yet understand.  It is said that religion is a failed form of science.  

Religion tends to be a reflection of commonly held moral values and not the other way around.  Likewise, there tends to be a natural selection of values based upon what best preserves society.

I don't buy the argument that life is meaningless with a god.  Without a god, meaning is limited to our existence and what we choose to make of it.  Religion says that your life has meaning outside of your existence, but that seems like a con to me.  It might be that the only meaning of life outside of your existence is evolution.

Do I think that there could be a god?  Yes, but I also think that it is impossible to prove.  One of the toughest questions is why is there something instead of nothing?  However, I can accept that this is something that I don't understand instead of relying on supernatural things for which we have no real good evidence.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Determining truth

If a person were to say that he had a UFO that was going to take people to a paradise on Neptune, then there would be people who would believe this and follow him. I know this because this kind of thing has happened. Usually, the crazier the claim, the more eager people are to believe it. This is how you end up with Jim Jones convincing his followers to kill themselves.

People, in general, have a defect in their logical thinking called Confirmation Bias. If something fits with what a person already believes or wants to believe, then that person will take this new information as gospel. For this reason, you can't really determine the truth unless you are willing to question everything you know.
To determine if something is true, it must also be falsifiable, which is a fancy way of saying that it must be testable. For example, I could say that there is a parallel dimension where Leprechauns exist, but if we have no way of detecting this dimension then we have no way of determining if it is true. I could speculate all day about Leprechauns, but it would be meaningless.

I would have thought that a worldwide deadly pandemic would have brought us all together and unified our thinking somewhat. Actually, the reverse has happened and we have never been more splintered. In response to a youtube video emphasizing the need to vaccinate, the vast majority of comments in the comment section were anti-vaccine. The comment ranked most popular, claimed that a rare blood clot that happens in one out of million vaccinations proves that the vaccine is unsafe. The dumbest comment I saw claimed that the vaccine causes the disease.

Another almost universal human defect is that people overestimate their own competency. People who know very little about biology, or virology, think that they are experts on the subject.

Friends have sent me incredibly wild claims about COVID-19 vaccinations. There are no microchips. It is not going to permanently rewrite your DNA. It is not going to damage your organs. It is not going to cause infertility or miscarriages. You can't pass the spike proteins to other people. It is not the Mark of the Beast. Every single anti-vax claim that has ever been made, including the ones about the COVID-19 vaccines, has been disproven.

These vaccines are no longer experimental. They passed all three phase trials, and hundreds of millions of doses later we have a pretty good safety record.

The bottom line is that there is a minuscule risk with any vaccine. Your risk of catching COVID and having serious illness or death is far greater. The COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly successful at lowering the risk of illness, and are almost 100% effective at preventing death from COVID.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Who Gets To Decide the Truth? –

But an objective observer would probably not have said that the Europe of the late medieval period was better organized or more advanced than the Europe of the Roman Empire at its height. In the year 1500, alien visitors might reasonably have pegged Homo sapiens as a stuck species. "Come back in another 100,000 years," they might have concluded, "and maybe these goofballs will be interesting."

People, Smith argued, come into the world equipped with what he called sympathy, or fellow-feeling; empathy is the word we might use today. We have a natural inclination to imagine how others see and feel, and to align our own perspectives and dispositions with theirs. Also, people come equipped with a desire to be trusted and respected by others. Through our desire for mutual esteem based on our empathetic intuitions, we can align our interests and form social bonds on a basis other than force or domination. True, human beings are also greedy and ambitious. Yet—here is Smith's most famous insight—a well-structured social order can harness those very traits to promote activity which benefits ourselves by benefiting others. If we get the rules right, millions of people of every imaginable skill and temperament and nationality can cooperate to build a fantastically complex device like a Prius or iPhone, all without the oversight or instruction of any central planner. If we get the rules right.

Smith's proposition seemed ridiculous, given that human history through his time was soaked in blood and oppression. His claim was redeemed only by the fact that it proved to be true. Although Smith did not invent markets, he notated the code which enabled a tribal primate, wired for personal relationships in small, usually related groups, to cooperate impersonally across unbounded networks of strangers, and to do so without any central authority organizing markets and issuing commands. Economic liberalism—market cooperation—is a species-transforming piece of social software, one which enables us to function far above our designed capacity.

The first is the idea of natural rights: fundamental rules that apply to all persons from birth to death—rules that all other persons and also sovereigns and governments are bound to respect, and which are to be respected impersonally and reciprocally. Because they are natural, these rights inhere in human nature and are present in the state of nature. They provide a built-in limiting principle to the war of all against all. For Locke, the fundamental rights are life, liberty, and property (meaning not just material property but authority over one's own body and conscience). Because rights are inborn rather than earned by merit or conferred by social position, they inhere equally. Individuals are always equal in their fundamental rights, even as they differ in countless other ways.

A second foundational principle is rule by consent. Governments are not instituted by divine authority to rule the people; they are instituted by the people to enforce natural rights. If governments exceed their authority or use it to violate the people's rights, Locke argued, they lose their claim to govern and may rightly be replaced. Government is sovereign within its grant of power, but the ultimate sovereignty belongs to the governed.

Third, toleration. Religious differences had torn Europe apart, in good measure because the combatants assumed that if one religion is true, then others must be false.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Why I Left The Mormon Church - YouTube

In response to ...

I wrote...

If all but one of the religions are false and made up by the priests, then why not all of them? (Paraphrasing Carl Sagan.)
We live in a Universe with (likely) trillions of galaxies and hundreds of billions of stars and planets per galaxy, but we live on God's chosen planet. He has a plan for us specifically. Unlike the millions of alien species (likely) out there somewhere, we alone were made in God's image.

Luke Pead wrote:

I left the Mormon church pretty early on in my life due to my other family members leaving. Due to this early exit, I can say that my experience was no where close to being as painful as others'. Yet, over the course of that time I was able to observe my parents, siblings and even some friend's experiences with leaving the church. So here is what saw. There is an extremely a tight wound community in Mormonism. This community maintains its unity through shared belief. There are so many subtle bits of indoctrination woven into everyone's minds that build a shared framework for how to perceive reality. The result is that nearly everyone processes information in a very similar manner. Individuality is lost in a sea shared thinking. So what happens if someone decides to leave? Their understanding of themselves was entirely defined by the church so after they leave, they lose that. For most people it takes years for them to find themselves. Re-building your entire way of thinking is no small task. Yet, in this process they begin to notice how Mormonism may have held them back. Now this is where the common experience diverges. Do they chose to live the rest of their life holding onto this hate towards the church? Or do they embrace this new person that they have just become and begin to unravel the mystery of the universe.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

There's a Hole at the Bottom of Math - YouTube

The first three minutes of this video talk about "The Game of Life."  This computer simulation was very popular in the early days of computing with the first personal computers going all the way back to 1975 when I first saw it.  Since early computers weren't capable of much of anything, this computer simulation was an interesting program that could be run on primitive computers.