Very Stable Genius, A: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America; Philip Rucker & Carol Leoning; 2020; Penguin Press; 416 pgs; notes, index
This was a much awaited book when it showed up. It covers the Trump history from getting elected (when the first thing he did was lie and claim he won the popular vote) to just after the infamous July 25th phone call to the president of Ukraine. Like books from other reporters like Bob Woodward, this book is heavy on basic facts. It is clearly written and as the title of the book implies, the authors know about whom they are writing. Unlike Woodward's books, which I found dry and dull, I rather enjoyed reviewing the events of the last few years in one compact reference.
Trump fired Comey -- who he knew was on the west coast -- by sending a letter a letter through one of his henchmen. He also torpedoed him on Twitter. When told that he had screwed up in sending the letter as he did, he replied "I know, fucking incompetence. Drives me crazy!" (referring to his staff). Trump never errs. Period.
The material in the book is largely familiar to anyone who has followed the election of the Mango Mussolini. If you had negative opinions of him, and who doesn't, this book will be satisfying and scary at the same time. If sheds some light on the Mueller report and why it fell so flat. It also illuminates the mind of Trump.
He is a petty, pompous, pugnacious, pinhead (at that is just the "P"s) in charge of a country he does not understand. Every person who has been in contact with him for any length of time has walked away from him covered in bullshit and fleas. Some still serve, but most have been arrested or driven from office.
In years to come, this book will become a reference for the times. The only unsatisfying aspect of the book is that it ends before the story is over.
As a skeptic, I have read a lot about cults. We had at least two ex-cult members lecture the BC Skeptics . I spoke with them in person. The difference between a cult and a religion is often subtle. In this case, we are talking about a political figure who demands utmost fealty and believes he can do no wrong. The is nothing subtle about Trump , and the parallels between the Trump movement and the rise of Nazi Germany continue to trouble me.
I recently read Prisoner's of Isolation which focused on solitary confinement in the Canadian penal system. Canada's practices were, as I described, barbaric. There is some light at the end of the tunnel for Canada.
This book is a much broader indictment of the US penal system, and specifically Attica. Canada was bad. The US was and is far, far worse.
Attica is a name familiar to anyone of my generation. I was a teen when it happened, and I must admit I did not pay much attention. Attica is a town and a prison in upstate New Your. On Sept 9, 1971, after months of simmering issues, the shit hit the fan. The prisoners took over, controlled the yard, and had many CO (correction officers) hostages. In the process, a CO was killed. After that, the cons took responsibility for the hostages and protected them. Rumors fostered by the state spread: castrations, torture, slit throats and such. The COs and the SPs (State Police) smelled blood. A few days later, the state (lead by the warden and the state head of corrections) let to dogs loose. What followed was chaos, torture and barbarity. Many cons and several hostage COs were killed, all by other COs. No attempts were made to match bullets to guns, guns to COs, or do any of that police professionalism stuff.
Bigotry was a major issue. Most of the prison population was non-white. Guard training was an issue: they had none. General cowboy attitudes, tough on crime types, and the general view that COs walked on water and cons were animals did the rest. These were jail towns and they hired any moron who could tote a gun from the local populace to do a "professional" job.
The top names in law were embroiled in a 40 year long cover up of crimes. The state was utterly heartless to everyone involved, including the families of injured or killed COs. The state refused to pay the salaries of the hostage COs because they were "off the clock". The state lost evidence, or denied it existed, or claimed privilege, or said it existed but it was unimportant throughout it all. The state even sent "support cheques" to widows, knowing that if they were cashed, they would, under NY state law, constitute an acceptance of compensation… i.e.: take this pittance which you desperately need, but if you do, you can never, ever sue. IOW: the state conned its own citizens.
You would think things would have gotten better, but not in the US of A. Some precedents were set, some rules changed, and some people made whole (ish). But mostly, the US doubled down, prison populations soared, , conditions got worse, for profit prisons made it worse still, and it is worse than ever now.
This is a long but gripping read. There are real heroes, real bad guys (most of whom died before the law could ever catch up to them), and lots of victims. The worst thing about it, though, is just how trivial it is for politicians to completely derail the justice system whenever they want and use it as a cudgel.
Universe From Nothing, A; Lawrence Krauss, Afterword by Richard Dawkins; 2012; Simon and Schuster; 191 pgs; index
I have known about this book for some time and finally got around to reading it.
Nothing is big topic. What is nothing? Just empty space? It still has time and volume, and the potential to have other stuff too, and the potential is something. Or: nothing is not nothing if it has the potential to be something.
One hundred years ago, the fastest form of commercial travel was the train and ship, and Einstein's special theory was still being debated . The General Theory of Relativity took longer to accept. One hundred years ago, we believed we lived in an island universe called The Milky Way. But now we know that the universe is far, far more vast. At this point, the author turns to Douglas Adams ("the universe is so big, you wouldn't believe it" etc).
To get a handle on the universe, we need to know how much stuff is in it. I.e.: what does it weigh?
Standard candles (Cepheid variable stars and Type 1A supernovae are the two biggies) have opened our eyes not just to the size of the universe, but its age and its destiny. The universe is expanding and will continue to do so forever. Here is an interesting idea: in 2 thousand billion years (2 trillion years), stars and galaxies will still exist. But future astronomers will literally have no way of knowing the deep history that gave rise to their universe. The rest of the universe would have disappeared beyond the horizon (or, if you prefer, they will be so far red-shifted that they will be moving away at over the speed of light and thus become physically undetectable). We are privileged and can see our history, but this will not be true forever.
The book gives a nice summary of what we know today and how we know it. The reasoning is fascinating. The bottom line is that dark energy is driving the universe to expand.
Another fun fact: if you are old enough to remember TV in the days of yore, you will remember that TV was broadcast and picked up with antennae. In the dead of night, the broadcasters stopped broadcasting and the channel in question would appear as "snow"… just a lot of static. About 1% of the snow you see is the after-glow of the big bang! This microwave background radiation can be sued to calculate the age of the universe: 13.72 billion years.
The fundamental base of the book is one of book keeping. We got a universe from nothing. But how. Energy (i.e.: matter and other stuff) is a zero sum game and so, suggests Krauss is the universe. If there are equal amounts of positive energy and negative energy (yes, there is such a thing), then the books still balance and sum to zero! And we get a flat universe…. Which is nice because curvy universes are more complex.
Krauss quotes Chris Hitchens often when it comes to the implications of all this. One thing seems clear, for Krauss there is no need of a creator. And the universe cares not what you might think of it. Stephen Weinberg is known for saying that science does not make it impossible to believe in god, it makes it possible to not believe in god.
This is a quick read. But the contents are deep and I may come back and read it again in a few years.
One analogy I liked for how it came about is this:
Take a ball and throw it in the air. It will fall to Earth. Thrown it harder, and it will still fall back to Earth. But throw it hard enough and it will never come done. This is a kind of symmetry breaking. One can imagine the potential for space doing this for eternities stacked on eternities, until one day, the ball did not come back down, and the universe was born.
One final quip from the book: One answer to "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is "There won't be for long!"
Miracle at Midway; Prange, Gordon W.; 1982; Open Road Media; 414 pgs; notes, index, Order of Battle, bibliography, chronology;
Dec 7, 41: the US enters the war after Pearl Harbor
Jun 4, 42: Midway
Dec, 42: Stalingrad
Jun 6, 44: D-Day
May 8: The Germans surrender
Sep 2: After six years (and one day)… the war ends with VJ Day.
When it comes to battles during WWII, the two that stand out the most are the Battle of the Bulge and Midway. There are others, of course: the Battles of the Atlantic/Britain/Stalingrad/Kursk; D-Day, Alamein, Market Garden and many more… and that is just the EOT. But these two stand out.
The Battle of the Bulge was the most costly, especially for the Americans. But it lasted for a month, and its ultimate outcome was inevitable. The decisive action at Midway was over in under seven minutes; the final outcome was by no means clear; and ownership of the Pacific was at stake.
Prior to Midway was the Battle of the Coral Sea. This was the first carrier vs. carrier battle ever fought. No ships saw the enemy. The Japanese had two of its Pearl Harbor veteran carriers damaged. The US also had two carriers damaged. Due to a non-battle related incident, the Lexington was sunk (actually, scuttled). Both sides towed their wounded carriers back to their home bases. The Coral Sea was a draw. But it set the stage for what happened next.
The Japanese were already planning an attempt to take and occupy Midway, a small atoll north and west of Hawaii, consisting to two small islands, Sand and Eastern, where the US had an airbase and refueling port. The American code breakers lead by Rocheport had broken much of the Japanese JN25 code and knew that AF, as the Japanese code worded it, aka Midway, was the target.
The Japanese were told that their two damaged Pearl Harbor veteran carriers would take three months to repair. The Midway invasion fleet set sail with the other four carriers that hit Midway: Akagi, Horyu, Soryu and Kagi. The Japanese also wanted to hit the Aleutians as a feint. Following behind the two attack fleets was the rest of the Japanese navy, including the largest battleship ever built, the Yamato, which carried Yamamoto, the fleet admiral. Nagumo, who lead the Pearl Harbor attack, lead the Midway attack force.
The Yorktown was towed back to Pearl and there, the shore crews also said three months were required to fix her up. Nimitz gave them two days. In a minor miracle, Yorktown sailed two days later to join her sister carriers Enterprise and Hornet. Fletcher and Spruance were to lead the American side.
As history records, the two fleets met north and west of Midway. A couple of squadrons of bombers found the Japanese carriers without fighter cover and hurriedly attempting to re-arm their planes to fight the American fleet (rather than to attack Midway itself). To this point, the US had had zero luck. But this time, in under seven minutes, three Japanese carriers were burning and subsequent action sunk the fourth. The cream of Japan's naval fliers and ground crews were wiped out.
Later, the Yorktown survived two airborne attacks, only to be sunk by a submarine's torpedo.
One difference between the Americans and the Japanese: When the Yorktown was sinking, the captain confirmed that all crew were off the ship, and then grabbed his kit and left. When Akagi went down, they Japanese spent most of the time trying to figure out who should or should not commit Hara Kiri.
I knew a lot about Midway, but this was still a stimulating read. The main reason the Japanese lost the battle was arrogance… what they called "victory disease". On paper, they were way ahead. There were other reasons too: Failure to deploy their battle ships; Inferior damage control technology (a consequence of the Bushido code); Poor use of scouts; Biting off more than you can chew; etc.
War is hell. The US launched around 30 torpedo bombers… old slow and carrying shitty US torpedoes. Not one hit its target, or if it did, it failed to explode. The crews knew their likely fate and only one or two of them escaped it.
If the Japanese had succeeded, the Pacific would have been theirs for some time. As it was, from June 6, 1942 (two years before D-Day), every subsequent move of the Japanese took them closer to home.
If the Japanese had been succeeded, I suspect that Tokyo would have been nuked. In any case, many more people, mostly Japanese, would have died.
The book is well researched with loads of detail.
Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump; Neal Katyal, Sam Koppleman; 2019 (Dec); Mariner Books; 156 pgs, notes, exhibits
This book was banged out in two weeks and published just before Trump was actually impeached. In this case, I think the word "impeach" really means "impeach and convict (i.e.: remove from office)". It is remarkably current considering the pace of events.
Katyal is a regular on MSNBC and worked in the Obama Whitehouse. He is a Constitutional scholar and Professor of Constitutional Law. The book is a quick read. The writing is concise and clear.
He outlines the history of impeachment first. He then examines the evidence, and the case against DJT. The legal issues are well explained . He finds himself teaching the American people law in the usual way: establish a set of hypothetical circumstances, and then explore the legal consequences.
Except this time, the circumstances are real, and USA is dealing with a bizzaro hypothetical come to life. Finally, he offers up some legislative patches that might make it harder for the next out-of-control President to follow in DJT's footprints.
The Whistler-Blower's statement is in it in full. It was compelling reading. The WB really did his homework well.
Katyal lays out the case why DJT must be removed from office very convincingly. I could go through the long list of things that Trump has done, but they are well known and there is no point in my summarizing a summary.
The book is not expensive and is out in paperback. Read it for yourself.
I really liked the film series of the same name that documented the experiences of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne. The book 's chapters each correspond to a 1 hour piece of the film series. I re-watched the series as I read the book.
Easy was trained by a much hated Captain Sobel. But Sobel's strict emphasis on fitness made Easy the most fit unit in the ETO (European Theater of Operations). Easy landed at Normandy, fought through Holland and Belgium, participated in Operation Market Garden, and famously played a key role in defending Bastogne from the German onslaught during The Battle of the Bulge.
The book is an easy read. It is about as close to fiction as I read these days, but of course, it is not fiction. The attention to military detail was fantastic in the film. I spotted things that were referred to in the book, but never pointed out in the film. So unless you were there, or were a veteran of other battles, the film had aspects that you would never notice without reading the book. Having said that, the film viewing time is longer than the book reading time. So if you have seen the film, you have not missed much. In fact, for most people, you can read the book faster than you can watch the show.
What these men had to endure is beyond anything I will ever experience. I stand in awe of what they accomplished… beyond simple survival.
The film ends with interviews of some of the soldiers… now quite old. The paradox of war is in the title. When you arrive as a recruit, you and your mates are equals, regardless of background. And if you survive the whole affair, they are your best friends to whom you owe your life, and vice versa. All of the survivors are glad for the experience, but only with the after the fact knowledge that they make it. Regardless, the emotional ties are strong and very touching.
The cliché "blood is thicker than water" does not refer to kinship ties, but to spilt blood between soldiers.
This was a read of a different nature. I wanted to learn a little more about feminism and a friend recommended this and one other book. It is different for me because it views the world from a perspective that I might try to empathize with, but cannot experience. It is worth noting that the book is 30 years old now, and some things have changed. I also note that Ms Wolf is very "beautiful", or at least she was in 1990. How much beauty-bias she personally suffered is hard to say.
The book has six chapters: Work, Religion, Culture, Violence, Sex, and Hunger,
There are many examples in every chapter (too many at times) of the various burdens women must bear… some external and some internal. For example: the intro points out that the average American woman would rather loose 10-15 lbs than any other goal. That is really sad. It certainly has a strong external component to it. You can blame Twiggy et al for that, but surely part of this issue is internal.
She introduces the concept of the PBQ (Professional Beauty Qualification). She argues that the PBQ is a way to discriminate against women in a safe, litigation-proof way. The standards for on-air female personalities are quite different than for men. One woman lost a case where her employer said she was too, old, too unattractive, and not deferential enough to men. Yikes! The PBQ, Wolf argues, is the currency of womanhood.
Here is a shocking statement from the book: Young professional women spend up to 1/3 of their income on their appearance. Or to put it slightly cruder: Want to keep your job: get your boobs done.
Culture obviously has shaped women. Women's culture is driven by women's magazines and the advertisers who support them. The advertisers are constantly telling women how they should or could look, and assure them that if they buy their goop, all their woes will go away. In fact they create the woes first, and then fix them. And they deliberately promote competition between women. The author suggests that "adornment" is a huge part of female culture, and I am sure she is right. But I wonder if that aspect of female culture is not part of the problem. Putting such a heavy emphasis on adornment seems rather shallow to me, but I am a guy.
Women and weight is always an issue. Weight Watchers tells women "Always wear your makeup. Even to walk the dog. You never know whom you are going to meet." That says a lot. About appearance issues and weight. The author's Religion chapter focuses primarily on the cult aspects of beauty and make-up. She spends quite a bit of time focusing on the bullshit of skin creams that promise rejuvenation. One marketing line caught my eye: "A lipstick you can have a lasting relationship with." I wonder if it comes with batteries.
Cults are something I know a little about. And it is all (well, most of it) there. Chanting, purifications, confessions and other mind control techniques are on full display. If the woman is also hungry, that helps as it will impair her reasoning.
Sex will always be an issue. And men control the issue. The book cites several cases where women were raped or brutalized, only to have the legal system tut-tut them, or suggest it was all in good fun. Who can forget the Canadian judge who asked a female victim why she didn't just keep her knees together? Ms Wolf does not approve of pornography and she may have a point, but these are issues that can be resolved academically, which is my only real complaint about this book… It could have used more science to back up its conclusions.
There is no doubt that weight and conditions like bulimia and anorexia are major concerns for women. The author quotes a number of statistics on the subject. If one takes the worst numbers that have been put forward, then 1 in 10 college age women are anorexic and 5 more are bulimic. If the true figures are even close to that, that is very troubling indeed. The rail thin heroin-chic skinny look came in with Twiggie and has never left. Porn and women's magazines are part of the problem, to be sure. They both make people of both sexes feel that their bodies are not as good as they could be.
Cosmetic surgeries have gone through the roof. Joan Rivers had more and more done until the last one killed her. The author argues that this is a form of violence toward women, and it is hard to argue that she has a point. Doctors invade diseased bodies as a last resort. Cosmetic surgeons call healthy bodies sick and then invade them. The industry is huge and largely unregulated. Things may have changed in 30 years, but in 1990, doctors could not tell a patients the risks of cosmetic surgery because they did not know themselves.
I found the book over-long on examples, and short on analysis and statistics. But these are quibbles. I can say this: it is more complicated being a woman in our society than a man. We have a long way to go as a society to level the playing field. And women (and men) need to learn how to be happy with themselves and others.
I recently visited my sister-in-law and complemented her on her looks. I had caught her in a rare moment: au natural (no makeup). She thought I was ribbing her. That should not happen.
There is no WWII battle more famous than the Battle of the Bulge. It was more widely referred to initially as the Ardennes Offensive. The German code name for it was Watch on the Rhine.
To put the battle in context: D-Day has come and gone; The Netherlands have been liberated and Antwerp captured; Operation Market Garden, and Montgomery's pet project, was a spectacular failure. As the allies approached Germany, resistance grew.
But Market Garden was not Monty's biggest failure. Antwerp was. Monty took Antwerp and then turned his eyes East. He failed to liberate the north side of the Schelt, the long inlet that gives Antwerp access to the sea. It was up to the Canadian's to clear the Schelt, which they did at great cost, giving the allies their first really useful port. Antwerp was the target of the Ardennes Offensive.
Here are the player: At the top: Churchill; Roosevelt, Hitler, DeGaulle (a general pain in the ass) and Stalin. Below Roosevelt was Eisenhower and under him Montgomery, Patton, and Bradley who was in over-all charge on the ground. In the East: Manteuffel, Model, Sepp Dietrich, and most famously, Pieper of the Waffen SS) .
The SS, originally Hitler's body guard, had grown and become an army of itself: the Waffen SS (weaponized SS) . They were famously lead by Pieper, a fanatical Nazi (Pieper survived the war, spent 11+ years in jail; and retired until the French Resistance caught up with him 20 years later and killed him) led the best equipped Panzer division in the battle.
Eisenhower ran the overall show. He has three squabbling generals to deal with. Montgomery was a ass, who thought only of British and personal glory. Montgomery would push for certain tactics, sometimes with good reason, but always prefaced every suggestion with "Put me in charge". Patton was famously arrogant and head strong. And Bradley was a wimp. Bradley did not figure much in the battle because he had head-quartered himself in Luxembourg and was out of touch with events.
Bradley felt scapegoated because he was the one who thought that no offence could come from the Ardennes. But it did come.
The book was an engrossing read. The horrors of war come through strongly. A minor example: US dead soldiers were booby trapped by fleeing Germans. Death was everywhere. Everyone knows the final outcome of the most costly battle in US history.
If you have seen the movie, you are probably aware of the Massacre at Malmedy. In it, Peiper's men shot 84 US POWs in a field. In point of fact, the Germans shot just about everyone: POWs, locals thought to be in touch with the resistance, locals in general, and occasionally, each other. But Malmedy was big news and the American division that saw it returned the favor in kind. In one incident, twenty German's were under fire and decided surrender under a white flag. The American's waved the first man out, and then the rest followed. When the Germans were all out and exposed, the senior American gave the command, and they were all machine gunned. This had one positive effect: The German's would do almost anything to avoid having to surrender to that American division.
A military side note: the deadliest weapon in the battle field of Europe was not the tank or the machine gun, or artillery. It was the humble mortar.
Prior to the war's beginning, high frequency electronics was just getting off the ground. Television was introduced during the 1936 Olympics. Another development linked to television was not for public consumption; became England's secret weapon; and played a role in the Battle of the Bulge.
Perhaps the best kept secret weapon of the battle was Pozit. It is better known today as a ground proximity fuse. Since artillery was invented, gunners knew that a shell that exploded overhead was far, far more deadly that one that augers into the ground and explodes. It was possible to do this without Pozit, but it was tricky at best. Pozit used a small single purpose radar signal to detect the ground approaching and trigger the explosion, typically about 30 feet above ground. It worked every time. One well place shell could kill everyone on a 100 meter radius that was not protected. Pozit had a very large effect on German morale as well as battle field outcomes.
Another short remark about Montgomery: he was so pig-headed about getting overall ground command in the European theatre (which would never, ever happen… the Americans would never allow it) that he came within a word or two of losing his job. He railed against Eisenhower to an aide who had just come from Ike. The aide said Ike might replace him. "Replace me with who?!" asked Monty. The aide mentioned a name. Monty shut up, apologized as only a Brit can, and resigned himself to history.
The index in weak in this book, but otherwise a really educational and sobering read.
A few things you should know before reading this email from my aunt:
This is the story of me becoming an atheist.
In the evening our mother told us stories written by H.C. Andersen.
Among them was the story (The Tinderbox) about the soldier, a tinderbox and three big dogs. And on Sundays, I went to the Sunday school and heard stories about Jesus and his disciples.
And then, in school one day, the teacher rolled down a big map of Palestine and he said: This is where Jesus was walking with his disciples.
I was shocked.
Like I would be, if the teacher had taken us to a tree with a big hole in it and declared that:
Here was the tree, where soldier killed the witch, and got the tinderbox.
But I was living in the 1930’s, and opposite to now, people went to church, so I kept my opinion to myself, until one day I openly declared myself as a nonbeliever, no longer a member of the church (I saved taxes), and none of my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are members.
Churches in Denmark are empty mostly – only a few old people mostly women are sitting there, and some churches are used for other kinds of social events.
And I need no medicine
And remember: No herring on white bread! (no white food at all).
recently met my old friend Daniel Friedmann at a high school reunion. We were not close during high school, but certainly friendly. At the reunion, I discovered that Dan is Jewish, has written a book, and is, well… really Jewish in that he seems to buy every word of the first chapter of the bible. (Aside: I will refer to him as Dan because I know him. I mean do disrespect when I do so.) I did not finish the book, but I saw no acknowledgement of the fact that there are lots of origin stories -- indeed, there are thousands -- nor of the fact that they all make the same claim and cannot all be right. For Dan, the Jewish world view is correct.
It is interesting to me that Dan and I have both written books that are nearly exact opposites of each others. The guts of my book states that the guts of his describe reflect a world view that I, and all atheists, find illogical and repugnant.
In the preface, he says that the bible (or rather the Torah et al) "effectively" describes the world. I would disagree. The meaning of word "effectively" as he used it is a bit unclear. I would take it to mean that it "works", which is nonsense.
He then immediately asks the reader to put aside their personal beliefs and notice the alignment of biblical events and events in the development of the world from sciences point of view. But every argument he makes, including the alignment, depends on you believing him, the bible, and Kabbalism. Kabbalism (sometimes spelled with a "C") is where the "code" in the title comes from. Per the book, Hebrew letters are numbers too (who knew?) , and when properly understood, the numbers add up to something (I have no idea what).
Dan has a masters in Engineering Physics and rose to the top of Canada's premier space technology company MDA. He is very smart. In the opening passages of the book, he describes his inner conflict, during his fourth year at university, when he realized that science and the Jewish religion are not very compatible (this seems like a late revelation to me). So he set out to reconcile them.
This is a book is a quick, light read. I did not read it all. There is only so much of this stuff I can stand. Dan does some math and comes up with this: A Creation Day is 2.54 billion years; or 7,000 Divine Years. Obvious really. Using these and other figures, he creates a religious interpretation of the major development events of the universe. I did find one review of the book on line, and in it the author mentions that by Dan's numbers, Adam would have spent millions of years "naming things", a chore god gave him early on. I am not sure how he manages to name things that have yet to evolve or develop. Dan spends a little time explaining how Adam was not a man, but became one later?
Dan does quote one paleontologist, Stephen J Gould. Gould is a good source. Gould wrote a book about the overlap of science and religion (overlapping magisteria) that, as I recall, was not well received by his contemporaries. Gould is Jewish.
The stand-out debate of religion vs. science is the origin of mankind (Scopes etc). Dan describes both viewpoints, and then ignores the discord entirely. He sort of claims victory by saying that his biblical version of reality and the scientific version align after 6,000 years ago. This avoidance practice coupled with expectation bias and over-zealous pattern matching (see my book) seem pervasive in his book.
Dan generally gets his basic science right but often oversimplifies. For example, his calculations contain the time unit of days. But the day has not always been twenty four hours, a fact he overlooks. He leaves out completely why science is right. The whole history of intellectual and scientific philosophy, and the arduous centuries-long abandonment of religious "absolute truth", is absent. I think it is not relevant from his perspective… that of a fundamentalist.
I have never understood people who, like Dan, will bend themselves into logical pretzels rather than admit that what they were force-fed as a child might not be true. When numbers get involved, my skeptical hackles go up. Numerology is hokum. I am reminded of the BS that was spread about the pyramids. Take the height, divide by the base circumference, but take back two cubits for Mary, and you get pi! So aliens built the pyramids, and god wrote "codes" into literally every word he claims he wrote. It is amazing the things you can deduce when you start with the conclusion, and then reverse engineer the premises needed to make it so.
Dan even spends a little time talking about the "power" in the names of god… real power from what I can gather, but not enough to do work. Work is a concept that I know Dan understands.
I admire people who stick by their beliefs.
I admire even more those people who are brave enough to drop or modify a long-held or cherished belief when the evidence turns against it.
Dan seems also to miss one of the absolute corner stones of science: prediction. It seems to me that if any of what Dan believes is true, then hard predictions should flow from them. There have been innumerable times in history when the latest messiah claims that the rapture will be on such and such a date, and the believers sell all they have in anticipation. All those predictions failed.
Dan might argue that the alignments he has discovered with his math is a prediction or sorts. No… it is not.
The basic problems with Dan's conclusions are summed up neatly in a computing maxim: GIGO.
Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.