24 November 2010

Some Experiences at the Islamic Board Forum

Preface:  I wrote most of the following two or three years ago, intending to post it at my other blog.  [To be more precise, the date on the final save of the document (labeled here as “1. Potential Post”) was 2008/01/02.]  Subsequently, however and for reasons mentioned in the text, I decided not to post it.

This week, I had additional experiences at the same Islamic Board Forum (see “2. Update”, near the end of this post), which some readers might find entertaining – and maybe even educational.  Therefore, I decided to put the two pieces together and post them here.

1.  Potential Post
As readers can partially confirm by going to the Islamic Board Forum and searching for all posts by “zoro”, I have been posting at this particular Muslim forum for about a year.  I wrote that you could “partially confirm” that statement, because I submitted approximately twice as many as the ~100 posts revealed in the search.  The others were deleted (I assume by various “moderators” at the forum) – and all were deleted (save one post) without any explanation provided!

If you do conduct such a search, you can confirm that my current status is “Account Disabled”.  [Update:  that was two years ago; I was banned for some (forgotten) number of months.]  “Account Disabled” is the Board’s way of publicly advertising that I’ve received a personal notice that I’ve been “Banned”.  Again, I was given no reason for my expulsion; in fact, the notice that appears when I try to login [two years ago] explicitly states:  “Banned.  Reason:  No Reason Given.”  Perhaps some readers might be interested in explanations – maybe out of curiosity, maybe to learn, and maybe to save yourselves fruitless effort.

In general, my interactions at the forum were “interesting”.  I interacted with some people whom it would be easy to call friends, including the Muslim “Woodrow” [see, however, “2. Update”], “Trumble” (a very impressive Buddhist), “Grace Seeker” (a friendly Christian), and others, as well as several intelligent and well informed secular humanists.  The Muslim “Purest Ambrosia”, however, was something else.  If you should be inclined to join this forum, watch out for her:  it’s not ambrosia she’s peddling; it’s pure poison.  [See “2. Update”:  she’s now changed her moniker to “The vale’s lily”.]  In addition, there were (unfortunately) many Muslims with whom I interacted who are so ill informed that they left me stunned:  it was like trying to communicate with children in the midst of their “terrible twos”.

But preliminaries aside, let me show you a few examples of my posts that were deleted – and I wrote it that way, because typically the post would appear for a short duration (I’m not sure how long), but then, when I checked back at the forum (typically within a day), they were gone.  From these examples, you can gain some appreciation for what to expect Muslims won’t tolerate – at least the Muslims in charge of this forum, which Google reports to be one of the two most popular, English-language, Muslim internet forums.

If you’re interested in posting at the “Comparative Religion Section" at the forum, make sure that you never criticize Islam, the Qur’an, or Muhammad, and don’t proselytize for any other religion; then, your proposed posts will normally not be deleted.  But I’ve had some posts deleted even in the Comparative Religion Section [Also, see “2. Update”], one with the astounding criticism:  “We don’t need discussions of other philosophies here.” With that attitude, the Muslim world will never emerge from its clerically imposed Dark Ages.

Where I started getting into major troubles with what I call Muslim clerics was in the “Learn About Islam” Section of the forum.  For most of the year that I was posting on the forum, I ignored that section.  One day, however, I had a look at a thread started by “madeenahsh” entitled “The 3 Required Characteristics for Seeking Knowledge”.  If you look at the Original Post (OP) of the thread, you’ll see that “madeenahsh” quoted some Islamic article that describes a ludicrous way for youngsters to gain “knowledge” – by which Muslim typically mean (and “madeenahsh” and the original author of the article definitely meant) knowledge about Islam.  So, I responded to such nonsense with the following (subsequently-deleted) post, in which the quotations are from the article posted by “madeenahsh”.
I think that the article that you quote is inadequate, because (to begin) it inadequately addresses two fundamental questions, namely, 1) What knowledge is sought? and 2) What is meant by ‘knowledge’?
With respect to the first question, consider some examples.  Is ‘knowledge’ sought about:  How to start a fire without a match?  How to get a wheel to turn on an axle?  How to irrigate crops?  How to breed cattle?  How to read and write?  How to build an airplane?  How to build a computer?  How to…
In particular, if anyone seeks knowledge about how to write an article about “The 3 Required Characteristics for Seeking Knowledge”, then that person would be well advised to learn that the first step is to clearly describe the purpose of acquiring such knowledge – followed closely by what the author also failed to do, namely, define what’s meant by ‘knowledge’.
What’s commonly meant by ‘knowledge’ is that one possesses a succinct hypothesis about some process that summarizes a substantial quantity of reliable information, that has predictive capability and whose predictions have been validated in a substantial number of experimental tests, and that normally doesn’t conflict with other well-established hypotheses (or “principles”).  Such is the knowledge about how to start a fire without a match, how to get a wheel to turn on an axle, how to irrigate crops, and so on. 
If the author had addressed those first two questions (what knowledge is sought and what is knowledge), then many “required characteristics for seeking knowledge” would follow – and not necessarily those that the author listed:
1) In some cases the student should “adhere to the method of education that those people of knowledge before us adhered to” (insofar as they used the scientific method), but the variety of ways that people have made great discoveries (from Galileo in a church being so bored with a sermon that he started timing a swinging chandelier using his pulse rate, to Newton’s lying on the grass and seeing an apple fall, and from Schrödinger’s panic about what to present in a lecture, to Feynman’s playing his bongo drums) suggests that the student could be well advised to “follow her own fancy!”
2)  The suggestion that “he should be prepared to sacrifice all of his time to seeking knowledge” is extremely ill advised.  As the Seven Sages said:  “Moderation in all things.”  Thus, experience has shown that it’s much more productive if a student takes time for rest and relaxation – to let her right brain (synthesis capability) make sense of what her left-brain has analyzed.
As for “the correct way for seeking knowledge”, I disagree with the first two of the “characteristics” listed.  Instead, they should be replaced by:
1.  Make sure you know what problem it is that you’re trying to solve.
2.  Proceed to try to solve the problem at a rate that’s right for you.
I would agree, however, with the third point listed:
3.  Be persistent.
I doubt that many people in the free world would take offense to my post (above) – or even pay much attention to it, since it’s so obvious.  The Muslim moderator, however, quickly deleted it.

I then moved on to a second thread started by “madeenahsh”, this one entitled “About Knowledge – Beneficial Read!”  In this thread I posted the following – and it, too, was rather quickly deleted:
I’m disappointed that, in your post, you use so many words without defining them, including ‘knowledge’, ‘good’, ‘comprehension’, ‘religion’, ‘virtue’, ‘understanding’, ‘righteous’, ‘validity’, ‘learning’, ‘sciences’, ‘faith’, ‘certainty’, ‘evidence’, ‘wisdom’, ‘believe’, and ‘truth’.
Furthermore (and more significantly), the meanings that you appear to attribute to such words are inconsistent with their modern meanings.  Instead, they are meanings that were commonly used by theologians and “scholastics” of a thousand-and-more years ago, whose ideas have long since been thrown into the trashcan of human mistakes.
Almost 2500 years ago, Socrates said:  “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.”  Agreeing with him (although I’d prefer if he had said “There is only one good, willingness to learn, and one evil, refusal”), I would suggest that you are potentially promoting much evil by ignoring (or refusing to learn) at least a little of the vast increase in knowledge that has developed during the past thousand-or-so years, ever since Muslims further developed the scientific method, beyond what Hippocrates outlined.
As Hippocrates (one of Socrates’ contemporaries) said:  “There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former beget knowledge; the latter, ignorance.”
What you have posted displays just opinions.
I admit that the above post of mine was a bit more “testy”, but as you can check, the OP was sooooo stupid!

Next, I moved on to the thread started by “Al Habeshi” entitled “Students of Knowledge… Sites and Time Tables”.  You’ll need to look at the proposed “Sites and Time Tables” to get an appreciation for just how dumb they are.  But details aside, my now deleted post was the following:
Al Habeshi:
Your recommendations for gaining knowledge blatantly conflict with the recommendations of the Arab Human Development Report entitled “Building a Knowledge Society”, which was co-sponsored by the Regional Bureau for Arab States, the UN Development Program, and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and which was prepared by 40 distinguished Arab scholars, along with 30 advisers and peer reviewers. 
In case you haven’t read the report, its English version is at 
and its Arabic version is at
http://www.palestineremembered.com/download/UNDP/ArabicVersion/Ar-Human-Dev-2003-ArabicVersion.pdf .
If you’ve already read the report, then I think that it’s incumbent upon you to explain why you are proposing to continue methods that have caused and continue to cause so much harm to the mental development of Muslim children.
2. Update
I’m not sure, now, why I didn’t finish the above and then post it on my other blog, but perhaps it was because I became too angry:  so many of my posts were deleted, and not only was I getting madder and madder at having wasted so much time (only to have the posts deleted at the forum), I then found that I was wasting even more of my time creating the post for my blog!

In any case, this week I decided to see what was going on at the Islamic Board Forum.  I saw that “Woodrow” was still there, as a moderator, but he seems to have become less friendly (see below).  Perhaps the cause was that, a year-or-so ago, I had seen how members of the Richard Dawkins (RD) Forum had raked him over the coals.  There, he had initiated a thread that basically stated:  “I don’t believe atheists exist”.  The rather amazing result of that encounter was that, even after his idea was thoroughly ridiculed, he wasn’t humiliated.  He was like a little child sassing back:  “I can believe whatever I want!”  (Which is correct, of course – at least in the free world – but people should expect to be ridiculed for holding ridiculous beliefs.)  Incidentally, after his ideas were ridiculed, he seemed to have withdrawn from the RD Forum.

Anyway, at the Islamic Board’s Forum a few days ago, I posted some comments in the thread Pascal’s Wager.  A seemingly intelligent Muslim by the name of Yahya Sulaiman had posted the following:
Pascal’s Wager is every bit as intellectually dishonest as people on the other side of the argument saying that they don’t believe in religion because of how it “inhibits your freedom” or exists for some sort of purported purpose, etc. – and for the very same reason:  the only consideration that should ever go into any decision whether or not to believe something is whether or not that something strikes you as true.  Period.  Truth trumps.  (That’s my motto, actually.)
To that post, I made the following comment:
Well, Yahya, I expect that most people maintain a similar motto, but for it to be valuable, an answer (or answers) is needed to the challenging question:  How do you determine if some claimed “truth” is true?  If you are interested in my (long) response to that challenging question, I’ve posted it (written as letters to my oldest grandchild) at http://zenofzero.net/docs/T1_Truth_&_Knowledge.pdf and at http://zenofzero.net/docs/T2_Truth_&_Understanding.pdf .
To my question “How do you determine if some claimed ‘truth’ is true?”, Yahya responded:
As best you can as a fallible creature, using your rational (and maybe your intuitive) faculties to your utmost.  Really, any way would be preferable to whether or not you think believing in something to be advantageous.  That’s just hideous.
To which I replied:
Oh, I agree: the proof-by-pleasure logical fallacy can lead to hideous consequences.  Yet, as I describe in detail in the references already given, it’s profitable to examine details about how to “[use] your rational (and maybe your intuitive) faculties to your utmost.”  One finds, for example, that it’s only in “closed systems” (such as games, mathematics, etc.) that “truth” can be determined; in “open systems”, in contrast (e.g., in reality), the most that can be determined (using the scientific method and Bayes’ theorem) is the probability that some claim is true.
Then came two posts by “the vale’s lily” (formerly “Purest Ambrosia”), the more complete of which is the following.   [And it might be interesting to notice that it’s her post number 7,034.  Can you imagine it:  over 7,000 posts in ~4.5 years, which means an average of more than 4 posts per day, every single day?!]
Please if I may give you a brief introduction – Zoro has in the past tried to indoctrinate folks here into his new cult appropriately entitled ‘Zen of Zero’ and I think outside of himself and his oldest daughter that is exactly how many cult members he has..  It is a sort of poetic ‘physics’ and I use the term physics loosely.  Once he starts indoctrinating err ‘‘challenging’’ you and per above with his religious pamphlet I believe he has already enclosed it for your perusal and you decide not to succumb to the powers of his miltonic mind he’ll unleash a barrage of his followers on you, since his granddaughter isn’t here, that will leave only his person – of course for which he was banned before..  I understand that by now you’d want to offer me one of your famous chill pills but I think I owe it at least to the new comers to what lies ahead..
A lovely lady – to whom, of course, I didn’t respond.  But I did continue to try to communicate with Yahya, who wrote:
What does any of it have to do with whether anything is an open or closed system??
My response was:
It’s an important distinction emphasized by Karl Popper.
For closed systems (such as all games), truth can be ascertained.  For example, in the game of baseball, it’s “true” that “three strikes and you’re out” (according to the rules of the game).  Similarly, in pure mathematics (according to the rules of the game), it’s “true” that 1 + 1 = 2.
For open systems, however (e.g., the human body, legal systems, and all natural systems), we can never be certain that we possess “the truth”; at best, we can determine only the probability that some claim is true (or, similarly, false).
Einstein made the distinction referring to mathematics as follows:
As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
Thus, for example, if 1 molecule (or mole) of carbon dioxide (CO2) reacts with 1 molecule (or mole) of water (H2O), the result is one molecule (or mole) of carbonic acid (H2CO3), i.e., 1 + 1 = 1.  Similarly, if two pieces of putty or two black holes merge, then 1 + 1 = 1.
The philosophical consequences of such ideas to religion are significant:  insofar as they are closed systems (defined by their scriptures), then religious “truths” can be ascertained, but insofar as they are open systems, at best only the probability of the truths of their claims can be determined.  For example, if Christianity is treated as a closed system, then the “truth” that Jesus is the son of God can be determined from the New Testament.  But in reality, the best that we can do is examine the evidence and, from the evidence, estimate the probability that such a claim is true.
Similarly for the “truth claims” of all religions - thus returning to my original question:  How do you determine if some claimed “truth” is true?
After which, the moderator (Woodrow) quickly added:
I believe the topic has been covered the best it can be here.  THREAD CLOSED.
Well, with “thread closed” (but not “case closed”!), a day-or-so later I moved on to another thread; this one entitled “To Atheists”.  As interested readers can determine, the thread led to some intelligent comments from “titus”, “gator”, “lynx” and others (particularly about whether Allah was playing a game by testing us), plus some belligerent, ignorant comments by (the same) Yahya Sulaiman (and others).  So, silly me, I thought I’d enter the fray with a little fun, posting the following:
Well, I have some good news and some bad news.
Maybe better:  I have what some people will consider to be good news, but which others will consider to be bad news.
The good news (at least for some people) is this:  I can confirm that God exists!  Also, I’m able to confirm that God IS testing people:  God isn’t just playing games!  For some people, however – in fact, for literally billions of people – the bad news is that God’s test is not what they think it is.
The other day, God let me in on the skinny:
She said that it’s not all fun and games running the universe.  She asked if I had any idea how hard it was to keep all the physical constants in the universe sufficiently “fine tuned” to permit life to continue, to ensure that pesky old dark energy didn’t blow the universe apart, to ensure that Black Holes didn’t gobble up every galaxy and then merge, returning the universe to its original state of total nothingness, and so on.
I admitted that I didn’t fully appreciate the difficulties.
She said that She wanted some help, especially since the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing and dark energy is getting even darker.  So, She’s testing people.
She said She’s looking for a few diligent and intelligent people who hold beliefs only as strongly as relevant evidence warrants.  To that end, She sent down a bunch of confusing messages in various “holy books”.  The test is:  those who believe what’s in such books, basing their beliefs on their own wishful thinking, on what other people say, etc. (rather than basing their beliefs on evidence) fail the test.
That’s her way to winnow the wheat from the chaff.  The chaff, She discards (the elementary particles of which they were made, however, She reuses).  Those who pass the test become candidates to help Her.
By the way, She specifically warned me not to tell anyone about the details of Her test, but shucks, who’s afraid of
Then what?  My post appeared, but by the time I took a break for breakfast, it was gone – along with Woodrow’s:
This has gone a step to [sic] far.  THREAD CLOSED.
I also received a message from Woodrow “explaining” the reason for deleting my post:  “Not funny and very offensive to theists.”

What a sorry excuse for a forum moderator!  Moderators at other forums are normally assigned the tasks of keeping the discussion on topic and not too heated (e.g., prohibiting direct and explicit insults to other posters).  But in this case (in a thread entitled “To Atheists”, no less!), my post was claimed to be “offensive to theists”.  It seems not only that in a thread “To Atheists” are atheists not permitted to express opinions but also that it’s offensive for theists to think that atheists might be right – or offensive even for theists to think!

Meanwhile, it must be perplexing to all other posters in the thread to have the moderator state, “This has gone a step to [sic] far”, since now, there’s no indication of what was “to [sic] far” (i.e., my post).  Simultaneously, it’s hilarious and ridiculous!

Actually, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more to the whole affair – and it’s not so humorous.  Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised if moderators on this Islamic forum are charged with forbidding any ideas that might shake any Muslims’ (blind) faith in Allah, Muhammad, and the Qur’an.  And I expect that, if the moderators don’t adequately censor “offensive ideas”, then the sponsors (hosting the website), who are probably clerics in Saudi Arabia well funded with petro-dollars, will shut them down.

For me, the moral of this post is not to waste any more of my time trying to communicate with Muslims at the Islamic Board’s Forum.  I’ll leave it to readers to identify other possible morals, e.g., dealing with censorship, the thin skins of so many Muslims, their fear of new ideas, the evils of holding beliefs more strongly than is justified by relevant evidence, and so on.

Meanwhile, on a happier note, this Thanksgiving (tomorrow) I plan to give sincere thanks to those to whom we are indebted for our freedoms.  In that respect, I invite you to again read what Robert Ingersoll wrote (which I’ve quoted many times, but never enough):
When I became convinced that the Universe is natural – that all the ghosts and gods are myths – there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom.  The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light, and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust.  I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave.  There was for me no master in all the wide world – not even in infinite space.
I was free:  free to think, to express my thoughts – free to live to my own ideal – free to live for myself and those I loved – free to use all my faculties, all my senses – free to spread imagination’s wings – free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope – free to judge and determine for myself – free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the “inspired” books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past – free from popes and priests – free from all the “called” and “set apart” – free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies – free from the fear of eternal pain – free from the winged monsters of night – free from devils, ghosts, and gods.
For the first time I was free.  There were no prohibited places in all the realms of my thought – no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings – no chains for my limbs – no lashes for my back – no fires for my flesh – no master’s frown or threat – no following another’s steps – no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words.
I was free.  I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.  And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain, for the freedom of labor and thought – to those who fell on the fierce fields of war – to those who died in dungeons bound with chains – to those who proudly mounted scaffold’s stairs – to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn – to those by fire consumed – to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men.  And I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.