Adult Onset Atheist

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Equinox 2016

The autumnal equinox in Utah will occur this year at 8:21 on the morning of September 22nd. Many consider this the official end of summer. The sunlit portions of the days are shortening by about two minutes and forty seconds each day. They have been shortening since the summer solstice (20 June 2016), but the pace has been increasing. About a month ago they were only shortening by a minute and a half, and at the beginning of August we were only losing about two minutes and two seconds of daylight each day.

The amount of sunlight we lose each day will begin to decrease after the equinox. By the end of October we will only be losing about two minutes and twenty-three seconds of daylight each day. By the winter solstice (21 December 2016; 3:44 am) we will begin gaining daylight, slowly at first, but then increasing in rate till the vernal equinox in March (20 March 2017; 4:29 am).

Darkness falls on the North Pole, and it will stay dark till March. For many weeks the horizon will be back lit by the sun teasing at the curvature of the earth, but it will not rise above the horizon. The extent of sea ice in the arctic reaches its minimum as the lack of sunlight brings colder temperatures. This year’s minimum tied (2007) with the second lowest minimum observed since satellites first began making measurements 37 years ago.



Screen capture from the North Pole Webcam 16 September 2015.  2015 webcams were deployed by researchers from the University of Washington and images were made available by PMEL NOAA.  No webcams were deployed in 2016 due to funding constraints, but webcam deployment is scheduled for the 2017 season.  http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/arctic-zone/np2015/cam120150916202746.jpg



The undulations of night and day are the cosmic patterns that weave the seasons through the history of the planet. Though they have changed in frequency and amplitude they have not done so very much during the history of humankind, and have not done so at all in my lifetime. They are a constant wave and the events of my life are only fluttering and temporary harmonics of that wave. Even the rise and fall of empires and entire religions happens with the beating of light and dark and seasons as a metronome keeping time in the background.

By the time the days start getting longer again here in the US we will have had weeks to rue our choice of a new president. The equinox brings with it a trending of new polls that slowly diminish Clinton’s lead over trump to a tiny fragment of the margin of error in those polls; in a few more weeks he will be winning at this rate.

Summer loves become the companions of fall. Colors change and kisses become warm and protracted. Orion is early in the sky, and were it not for the winter’s inversions trapping winter’s car exhaust the moon would shine through the dry air with a noticeable clarity. At higher elevations along the Wasatch this coming weekend we should see snow; the moon reflecting off fresh snow can look just like love.

Thirty-two years ago I was covered in self-pity and snot. Today I talk with my hands as if conducting the spheres of the solar system into their respective orbits. Waving tiny wands at a cosmic inevitable creates the illusion of magic, and the real magic of understanding. Time and season drag the future to us; terrible, and wonderful, and with a cacophony of hope.


video



We can shape this future: on the individual scale by finding love and cultivating it, on the national scale by getting out and voting, and on the scale of the universe by conducting that magical action at a distance that allows us -as only humans can- to look out into the universe and wonder.










Thursday, September 15, 2016

HTH doping


There are many things antithetical to reason. Some, like love, are revelled in as a wonderful part of the human experience. Some, like theistic thought and mental illness, are pernicious inhibitors to many of the best parts of the individual human condition. including rational thought. The DSM 5 lists many maladies that count irrational thought among their symptoms. Among these the conditions that can be lumped together as “addiction” are interesting because the most popular method of treating these maladies that count irrational thought among their symptoms is by applying more irrational thought.

Sometime around 1938 several alcoholics, notable amongst them Bill Wilson, developed 12 steps for recovery from alcoholism. These were adapted from more religious organizations, and retained a significant “spirituality” with a decidedly Christian flavor. The alcoholic seeking recovery is instructed to pray to a higher power called god, and this magically removes the desire to drink alcohol.

It is important to note that a significant portion of the development of the 12 steps was secularizing the message of the oxford groups that came before. The steps allow for a higher power –or god- “of your understanding”, and this leaves, by design, a lot of room for interpretation.
“I should acknowledge our great debt to the Oxford Group people. It was fortunate that they laid particular emphasis on spiritual principles that we needed. But in fairness it should also be said that many of their attitudes and practices did not work well at all for us alcoholics. These were rejected one by one and they caused our later withdrawal from this society to a fellowship of our own - today's Alcoholics Anonymous.
Perhaps I should specifically outline why we felt it necessary to part company with them. To begin with, the climate of their undertaking was not well suited to us alcoholics. They were aggressively evangelical.” – Bill Wilson “Lets Ask Bill W. Question & Answer #7” (Chicago, Ill., February 1951)

The 12 steps of AA have been adapted for the treatment of a myriad of obsessive or addictive conditions. The list is truly impressive. The 12 steps of AA should be viewed as a successful program simply, and even if for no other reason, because of the way it has saturated the field of recovery.

Many of the offshoot organizations have secularized the 12-step program even further. Narcotics Anonymous added the catch phrase “Spiritual not religious” to the way 12 step programs are understood. There is a religious option in many online dating apps called “spiritual not religious” that is used to indicate some secular state of recovery in a 12 step group.

Not all of the adaptations of the 12-step program have been to secularize the message. Sometime around 2008 several members of the Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormon) faith received permission to adapt the 12 steps, and they created an LDS-centered recovery group called “Heart T’ Heart” (HTH). HTH also took the 12 traditions that AA had created to protect the autonomy of members and groups within the loose AA organization. However, it inevitably ran into problems leaving some sort of opening for the influence of church authority over all things because the traditions of AA purposefully avoid assigning authority and responsibility to the greater organization.

Original AA traditions
HTH Traditions
1
Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A. A. unity.
In Heart t’ Heart individual recovery depends on the loving, supportive fellowship of the group. Without acceptance and unity there can be no fellowship and thus no recovery.
2
For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
In Heart t’ Heart there is only one ultimate authority–a loving God who manifests His will for each group in our prayerful group conscience. Our Heart t’ Heart leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.
3
The only requirement for A. A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
The only requirement for Heart t’ Heart membership is a desire to stop participating in compulsive/addictive behaviors.
4
Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A. A. as a whole.
Each Heart t’ Heart group is autonomous within the guidelines of the steps and the traditions, encouraged only to practice these principles in all its decisions.
5
Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
Each Heart t’ Heart group has but one primary purpose–to carry its message of recovery from compulsive/addictive behavior to those who still suffer.
6
An A. A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A. A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
A Heart t’ Heart group ought never endorse, finance or lend the Heart t’ Heart name to any outside publications or enterprise, lest problems of copyrights, money, property or prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
7
Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
Every Heart t’ Heart group ought to be fully self-supporting through voluntary donations from members only.
8
Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
Heart t’ Heart should remain forever non-professional, but our General service center may employ special workers.
9
A. A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
Heart t’ Heart, as such, ought never be organized. We may, however create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
10
Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence, the A. A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
Heart t’ Heart has no official opinion on any outside issue. Neither is its intent to promote any doctrine or policy contrary to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hence, the Heart t’ Heart name ought never be drawn into any controversy, the opinions expressed being simply those of the individuals who share them.
11
Our public relations policy is based on attraction, rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and film.
Our public relations policy is based on attraction, rather than promotion. We need always maintain the spiritual foundation of personal anonymity, acknowledging that all recovery comes through dedication to the principles of the program.
12
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
Personal anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions–ever reminding us that this program is focused on principles and not personalities.

The HTH traditions and steps arose from a collaborative negotiation with AA. Almost any group which preserves the intent of the 12-step program(s) –captured in the 12 steps and 12 traditions- can develop their own interpretation and call it an "AA-like 12 step program"; the negotiations often only ensure that the interpretation does not stray so far from the original intent that it dilutes the core principals of the program. The 12 traditions are there to help keep the program in the anonymous grass-roots mold that is a core concept for all (most?) 12-step groups.

The “great apostasy” is the name the LDS church gave to the recent loss of members. The magnitude of the efflux is shrouded by shifty bookkeeping where a member simply leaving the church is not recognized, but there has been much overt speculation on causes and cures. For the true believer it is easy to become convinced that something is wrong with people who leave the church; something pathological.

Addiction is an easily identifiable pathology to blame apostasy on. I have seen the activity of many ex-Mormons, and it is not uncommon for them to experience a period of severe disorientation shortly after leaving the church. Moderation is not a concept that naturally arises when one removes an artificial abstinence, and many (please don’t interpret this “many” as anything but a subjective collection of anecdote) will obsessively indulge in behaviors in ways that either lead to or mimic addictions.

It was natural, therefore, that the LDS church should develop a way of harvesting these members back into the fold. The 12-steps of AA appeared as if they could be useful; the 12 step programs, and AA in particular, have often been viewed as a good way of retaining or recovering members of any religion, so this utilitarian view of the 12 steps by the LDS church was not new.
“In summary we can say that Alcoholics Anonymous have found a way to bring the gospel of Christ to a particular group in a successful way; and that examination of this way serves to reemphasize the validity of the central teaching of the Church.” -- ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS SPEAKS TO THE CHURCH. Robert K. Nace. JOURNAL CLINICAL AND PASTORAL WORK. Vol. 22: 124-132, 1949
“In recent years our Church members have been afflicted more and more with habits and behaviors that keep them from enjoying the full blessings available to them as members of the Church.” – from the pamphlet “Speaking Heart T’ Heart to our priesthood leaders” ©2013, 2003 General Service Board of Heart t’ Heart Inc Item #0510

HTH describes itself as not being a LDS Church organization. It could not both be that and a true 12-step group as rigid autonomy is codified in the 12 traditions. However, it is not necessary to be a 12-step organization to interpret and use the 12 steps of AA. In 1995 the LDS church began using their own 12-step guide for their official “A pilot program @ phase” of the LDS Family Services Addiction Recovery Program (ARP).

The 12 step study guide titled “He Did Deliver Me from Bondage” was written by Colleen C. Harrison, and self-published. Colleen was a leader of the handful of LDS addicts who formed HTH; she had an eating disorder she had diagnosed as an addiction. “He Did Deliver Me from Bondage” was an interpretive workbook based on her observations in her personal recovery that aligned her concept of LDS scripture with the 12 steps of AA. It was originally distributed as a bunch of pages in three ring binders. It would become the core literature of the tiny HTH organization. The tiny publishing house of Windhaven (the name would later be changed to Hearthaven) would later be formed to publish the book.
“The Twelve Step model is nothing more than a detailed description of how to come unto Christ and allow Him to lift our burdens. We come unto Him one step at a time!” – Description of the 12 steps from front page of Hearthaven Publishing website (September 11, 2016)

One of the things Colleen’s book did was apparently extract quotes from Mormon scripture that sounded like the 12 steps. I thought this was especially clever as it would establish prior art for the 12 steps. Mormons might even be able to argue that they could place the date of the first versions of the 12 steps at some time in the early part of the first century, and predate the formation of AA by almost two thousand years.

I decided to look up one of the quotes to marvel in the parallels. I chose one of the most religious of the steps, step 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”. If any of the steps should find almost exact parallels in scripture it should be this one.

The HTH step 3 was followed by the Mormon scriptural quote: “Made the decision to reconcile ourselves to the will of God, offer our whole souls as an offering unto Him, and trust Him in all things forever.”, and this was followed by four scriptural references [2 Nephi 10:24, Omni 1:26, Mosiah 3:19, 2 Nephi 4:34] where presumably versions of the quote could be found. I looked up the four references, and this is what I found:
2 Nephi 10:24; Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.
Omni 1:26; And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.

Mosiah 3:19; For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
2 Nephi 4:34; O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

What I found was four quotes from which one might be able to construct the given passage through a process of selective disassembly and re-arrangement; this for an undeniably religious step that would be expected to have almost exact parallels in the scripture of most Abrahamic religions. This came across as a little obsessive, and not very well grounded.

It is a wonder that Colleen had the time to obsessively reconstruct scripture from selected fragments. She was a very busy woman. She converted to Mormonism at the ripe old age of 14 while her mother was busy with her own addictive behaviors. By 17 she married, and for the next 23 years she popped out a child on the average of every two years. By the time her “active LDS household” was “destroyed by addiction” in 1991 she had 12 children. In 1991 she introduced the workbook that would become “He Did Deliver Me from Bondage”, and formed HTH.

In 1995 LDS family services adopted Colleen’s book as the literature for the official LDS addiction recovery organization. The LDS church is very concerned with what they call “pornography addiction”. Recently they have pressured the Utah state legislature into calling “pornography addiction” a public health crisis. Many people have suggested that the legislature define more pressing concerns as public health crises; things which produce quantifiable, or measurable, or even just demonstrable damage to public health. It has been speculated that calling for action on a questionable public health crisis, that the LDS church is uniquely positioned to respond to because it invented it, could be a good way of funneling public dollars into church proselytization efforts.

In the spring of 1998 Colleen met Phil Harrison (a self-described pornography addict) with whom she would eventually write “Clean Hands, Pure Heart: Overcoming Addiction to Pornography Through the Redeeming Power of Jesus Christ”. By that summer Phil’s wife Kathy would die, a couple dys later Colleen and Phil would be engaged, and in January of 1999 Colleen would marry Phil in the LDS temple and become stepmother to his five children.

In 2005 LDS Family Services would retire “He Did Deliver Me from Bondage” and begin publishing their own literature. With it came a new set of decidedly more theistic steps, and a noticeable lack of a form of the 12 traditions. The steps are similar to the AA steps, and one can see a process of de-secularizing of the 12 steps, with the HTH 12 steps as an intermediate link.

Original AA "Steps"
Heart T Heart "Steps"
ARP “Key Principal”
1
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
We admitted we were powerless over compulsive/addictive behaviors*—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.
2
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health.
3
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
4
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.
5
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Admit to yourself, to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, to proper priesthood authority, and to another person the exact nature of your wrongs.
6
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Become entirely ready to have God remove all your character weaknesses.
7
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Humbly ask Heavenly Father to remove your shortcomings.
8
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Make a written list of all persons you have harmed and become willing to make restitution to them.
9
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Wherever possible, make direct restitution to all persons you have harmed.
10
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Continue to take personal inventory, and when you are wrong promptly admit it.
11
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Seek through prayer and meditation to know the Lord’s will and to have the power to carry it out.
12
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others still suffering from the effects of compulsive behaviors and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, share this message with others and practice these principles in all you do.

There are a myriad of ways in which the formation of a 12 step program with obvious similarities to AA could be used to leverage public interest in addiction recovery for the purposes of accumulating money, power, and prestige. It is also a powerful proselytization tool as it is not uncommon for judges to link the severity of a sentence to attendance of a 12 step recovery group; people might reasonably believe they were being given the choice of going to the LDS church or going to jail.




Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sent Packing in Italy

If anyone currently racing in professional cycling could be accused of “genetic doping” it would probably be Taylor Phinney. The son of two wildly accomplished cyclists he undoubtedly has genetic advantages not available to any less pedigreed “normal” cyclists. His father, Davis “Thor” Phinney, was one of the “hard men” of the 7-Eleven cycling team, and his mother, Connie Carpenter-Phinney, won Olympic medals in cycling and speed skating. There are few members of the peloton that can boast of being the offspring of two cycling legends. I suspect, but have no actual proof yet, that Kristin Armstrong’s eggs are being used in secret former soviet labs to produce future generations of super cyclists.


Taylor Phinney at 2010 Tour of Utah
Photo credit: Adult Onset Atheist
 

Taylor has displayed the phenotype of a hard man of cycling. In the rainy and cold second-to-last stage of the 2013 Tirreno-Adriatico (11th March 2013) the groupeto of sprinters was so disheartened by the acceleration of the climber’s group that all 50 of them quit less than two hours in to the 209km stage. Rain forced some riders off their bikes as the road pitched up to slopes of as much as 30%. The groupeto was mostly sprinters, and there were no more sprint stages in the race, but Taylor was hoping to do well in the final individual time trial so he did not abandon when all the riders around him did.

There is a time cutoff in professional races; usually a percentage of the race winner’s time. The groupeto forms from slower riders who work together to make it to the finish within the time limit. Riders sheltered from the wind in a group can expend only two thirds of the energy of a solo rider. When the groupeto (half the total field!) quit on Taylor he was left to perform an incredible feat of stamina just to make it across the finish within the time cut.

Sometimes the groupeto is unsuccessful in their attempt to make it to the finish within the time cut. Just this week a 93 rider groupeto in the Vuelta a Espana finished over 20 minutes after the time cut in the 118km mountainous stage 15. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) put time into Chris Froome (Team Sky) as he battled to maintain the leader’s jersey; meanwhile the groupeto faded, and then faded some more.

The Vuelta’s time cut off was set at around 31 minutes for the stage that finished in just under three hours (2:54:30). The time cut off for stage 6 of the 2013 Tirreno-Adriatico that Peter Sagan won in a little over five and three quarters hours (5:45:17, beating Vincenzo Nibali by two seconds) was set at around 34 minutes.

Taylor Phinney soloed to the finish for over 120km; for close to four hours he pushed himself, without help, through a biting cold rain. He ended up finishing about 3 minutes outside of the time cut off. He would be sent packing, and not get to compete in the following day’s individual time trial.

“It was a big day. It’s surprising what you can do to yourself sometimes.” –Taylor Phinney on being time cut after stage 6 of the 2013 Tirreno-Adriatico


So what happened to the group of 93 riders who missed the much more lenient, as a percentage of the total race time, cutoff this week? Well the organizers of the Vuelta just thought it would not be fair to send them all packing so they changed the rules and almost doubled the time cutoff to allow them to stay in.