Man cannot survive except by gaining knowledge, and reason is his only means to gain it. Reason is the faculty that perceives, identifies and integrates the material provided by his senses. The task of his senses is to give him the evidence of existence, but the task of identifying it belongs to his reason, his senses tell him only that something is, but what it is must be learned by his mind.
– Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged
[This is part 1 of a planned 3 part series on the philosophy of Ayn Rand and its influence on my life. This first part serves as an introduction to Ayn Rand and her philosophy and the context within which I first learned of her work.]
Like religious belief, the late Ayn Rand is not a subject for polite conversation. She evokes such extremes of emotion in those who know of her that it’s almost impossible to have any rational discussion about her or the philosophical movement she inspired. Coupled with the fact that Ayn Rand’s ideas have had an immeasurably profound influence on me, this makes the present essay the most intensely personal and hence most difficult to write of anything in the entire site thus far.
Continue reading Ayn Rand and Me (Part 1)
It’s been a month now that I’ve reworked my previous website as a blog and ended up writing more content for it than I originally thought I would. Now I guess my wife has caught the writing bug from me and has decided to do some writing of her own. Her blog at passionforarts.com is entirely in Chinese and will focus on the arts, particularly film and television. They aren’t really reviews, but are more like essays examining the themes and ideas in specific works.
John Scalzi recently posted a highly entertaining account on his visit to the Creation Museum in Kentucky in the US, complete with 100 photos of the whole thing. Among some of the most ridiculous claims the museum makes is that dinosaurs lived contemporaneously with humans until as late as the Fifth Dynasty of ancient kingdom of Egypt. Even more amusingly, they claim that before Adam committed the original sin of eating the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden, all animals were herbivores, even some fearsome dinosaurs as the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex. They suggest that before Adam ate the apple, the T. Rexes used their gigantic fangs and claws to eat coconuts.
Personally, I recall going to Sunday school once at an early age and hearing the story of the Garden of Eden. Even then, my bullshit detectors went off because, well, having read stuff like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, I wondered where were the dinosaurs in the story? As Scalzi writes, you really have to admire the chutzpah of creationists who can insert dinosaurs into Paradise and still claim with a straight face that all the facts fit together just fine.
As ridiculous as this sounds, this is a pretty big deal in the United States. The Creation Museum cost US$27 million and is reportedly attracting crowds of a decent size, while approximately two thirds of Americans believe that creation science should be taught alongside evolution in schools. More worrying still, as The Economist noted earlier this year, the movement is becoming global, with Turkey in particular being a centre for Muslim creationism.
I’m particularly curious about attitudes in Malaysia. From anecdotal evidence, I believe that most Malaysians still harbour significant doubts about human evolution without actually committing themselves to so ludicrous a belief as the 6 day Young Earth Creationism taught by the museum. This is still a shame though because the consensus among scientists is that evolution is probably the most well established and well documented theory in all of science and answers to the most common questions are easily found on websites like the TalkOrigins Archive.
Since a friend of mine, Tan Kien Boon, recently made a post on his blog about an emotionally trying experience that could be related to ghosts, I thought I might write about my closest encounter with the supernatural. This happened several years ago when I was working for a logging company in Gabon in west central Africa. I was sleeping, alone, face up, late in the afternoon, the kind of sleep where you’re not awake but not completely unconscious either.
Continue reading Seeing Ghosts
Check out the cool artwork (click on the image for a larger version) above by Richard Lim Boon Keat and used with his permission here. Apparently he’s a Malaysian artist who’s worked on a number of game projects. I discovered his website through Armageddon Empires, a game by QT3 forum member Vic Davis, which is a notable indie gem combining wargame and collectible-card game mechanics. It deserves a post of its own, but I’ll have to spend more time on it before I have much to say on it.
Continue reading The Art of Science Fiction
Baby’s First Fall was my first and so far only published piece of fiction. It was kindly accepted for publication by Gary Markette at Anotherealm. I’m glad to see the site is still alive and well five years later and the story itself still available for reading online, even if he did call me Mr. Yew.
The story is the only decent thing of mine that came out of my participation in the now defunct Del Rey Online Writing Workshop. According to the website of Ellen Key Harris-Braun who apparently constructed the site for Del Rey, it was an early example of the community peer-review environment that is widely prevalent today and attracted over 8,000 members at its height.
Continue reading Baby’s First Fall
The website languished for a long while then, though I continued to use the domain name as my personal e-mail address and used the hosting space for a private forum for some of my old school friends. A long while ago, one of these friends suggested that I change the website to a blog, so as to make it easier to update it. In retrospect, he was right. The days when I was convinced that raw HTML on a plain text editor was the only way to work on my website are long gone. If I had switched to a blog format earlier, I might actually have gotten more done.
I’ll be adding those old essays that I’m not too embarrassed about as posts over the few days. After that, who knows.