Friday, 17 January 2014

Being The Grand Pixie

We tend to think of The Grand Pixie as a big man with a beard, or some sort of powerful "person" like a human being, although one who can do amazing things. This is just the childish version, it is conditioned in our thinking by a pedestrian approach to religion.

There are religions that don't have a "Grand Pixie" per se, such as Buddhism. Essentially, there is no reason to think of The Grand Pixie as a person, certainly not one with a corporeal body. That image, which is hinted at in the Pixie Manual, is merely metaphor. Depending upon the religious tradition, however, one can have very abstract views of The Grand Pixie which have nothing to do with a father figure or a mother figure.

There is a more abstract way to think about The Grand Pixie: that is "Transcendental Signifier;" the notion of a metaphysical first principle that organizes everything into a metaphysical hierarchy. This is the more sophisticated view of The Grand Pixie, and most of the works of the great Faerian philosophers hint at notions of The Grand Pixie in these abstract terms.
Some ancient Faerian, who developed a nonsensical “ontological argument” that no-one really takes seriously anymore, defined The Grand Pixie as "that which nothing greater than can be conceived." If he could have been bothered going through the charade, this old windbag would have ended all of his arguments by saying "this thing we call The Grand Pixie," as a means of keeping the exact nature of The Grand Pixie open ended. This is because The Grand Pixie is beyond our understanding, as the Pixie Manual says, but we can leave a "place marker" for the concept of The Grand Pixie by understanding that the ultimate logical function of the The Grand Pixie concept is that of the transcendental signifier.

Ground of Being

One of the sophisticated concepts used by great Faerian theologians is that of "The Ground of Being." This concept indicates, not that The Grand Pixie is the fact of things existing, but that The Grand Pixie is the basis for the existence of all things. The Grand Pixie is more fundamental to existing things than anything else. So fundamental to the existence of all things is The Grand Pixie – that The Grand Pixie can be thought of as the basis upon which things exist – the ground of their being. To say that The Grand Pixie is The ground of being or being itself, is to say that there is something we can sense that is so special about the nature of being that it hints at this fundamental reality upon which all else is based.
The phrases "Ground of Being" and "Being itself" are basically the same concept. Some use both at different times, and other pixiologians prefer "Being Itself," but they really speak to the same concept. Now Sceptics are always asking "how can The Grand Pixie be being?" I think this question comes from the fact that the term is misleading. The term "Being itself" gives one the impression that The Grand Pixie is the actual fact of "my existence," or the existence of my flowerbed, or any object one might care to name. Some random guy, on the other hand, said explicitly (in some book, so it must be true, right?) that this does not refer to an existential fact but to an ontological status. What is being said is not that The Grand Pixie is the fact of the being of some particular object, but, that he is the basis upon which being proceeds and upon which objects participate in being. In other words, since The Grand Pixie exists forever, nothing else can come to be without The Grand Pixie's will or thought, and since there can't even be a potential for any being without The Grand Pixie's thought, all potentialities for being arise in the "mind of The Grand Pixie" than in that sense The Grand Pixie is actually "Being Itself." I think "Ground of Being" is a less confusing term. The Grand Pixie is the ground upon which all being is based and from which all being proceeds.

How Can "a Being" be Being Itself?

Part of the confusion stems from a misunderstanding of what is being said. I say that The Grand Pixie is 'necessary being' not "a necessary being," not because I forgot the "a" but because The Grand Pixie is not "a being." He is above the level of any particular being that participates in being, but exists on the level of the Being, the thing itself, apart from any particular beings. There is Being, and there are "the beings." This is a crucial distinction, but it leaves one wondering what it means and how it could be. I think the answer lies in the fact that The Grand Pixie is ultimate reality. The Grand Pixie is the first, and highest and only necessary thing that exists, and thus, had The Grand Pixie not created, The Grand Pixie would be the only thing that exists. Could one somehow ponder a universe in which The Grand Pixie had not created, in which The Grand Pixie was all that was, one might well ask "what is it to be in this universe where there is only The Grand Pixie?" In such a universe the only conceivable answer is "to be is to be The Grand Pixie." In that sense The Grand Pixie is Being Itself.

(Original article being satirised is here.)

Monday, 13 January 2014

An Open Letter to the Keepers of the Creation Wiki


First off, let me be open.  I am not a creationist, nor even a theist.  However, it's come to my attention that your entry on Free Will has been hijacked by someone who, while virulently anti-atheist, is far from being a standard Christian creationist.

Nando Ronteltap, now known as Muhammad Nur Syamsu since his supposed conversion to Islam, has been pushing his bizarre variant of subjectivity theory in many different locations for quite some time.  He's attempted to edit the Free Will entries at:

WikiPedia (
Conservapedia (
AmeriWiki (
RationalWiki ( (
CreationWiki (
But he's only been successful at your wiki.  Check the history of the editing of the Free Will page by Syamsu.  Note that in 2012 there was a section on Biblical Interpretation and one on Creation, creatio-ex-nihilo - both of which have since been deleted.  There is currently one single mention of God on the page (two if you count God as "creator") and one mention of creation.

He's also been pushing his theory in other locations, where his supposed Islamism has come into question (by me at Philosophy Forums) and where he has been happy to attack "fellow" theists who don't toe his line:

Evolution Fairy Tale (
Philosophy Forums ( - multiple threads
Evolution Vs Creation Forum (
SciFi Forums (
Sam Harris Forum (
What you might notice when you read through this is that Syamsu almost never mentions god, nor seems particularly fussed about creationism.  In other words, he's using the fact that you've been kind to him and let him edit your page on Free Will, without having any real convictions in line with your beliefs.

So, as said, I am not a creationist, nor am I a theist.  But I don't particularly like people taking advantage of other people, and I have a thing about liars.  I implore you to take a closer look at your Free Will page and at its author, Syamsu.

Yours sincerely,

I got a response saying that it was being looked into, a short time after which Syamsu's changes were partially rolled back.  Noting that it was an incomplete roll-back, I sent off a second email.

I note that you have made some changes - but might have missed some of the roll-back, particularly this one -  The words prior to Syamsu's changes appear to be Jzyehoshua's.

I'm guessing that your use of the "subjectivity" and Syamsu's is different (given the word's use in the isochron dating article - "When you look at actual isochron plots such as the ones at the above source, there seems to be room for subjectivity".  Syamsu is arguing that subjectivity is good and we need it (which might be the case, I suppose) while you are using it to point to subjectivity as being a possible source of error - which is of course true, even though we may disagree on where the subjectivity is :)
Posted here in full in order to avoid claims that I have been underhanded. Gratifyingly enough, the founder of CreationWiki did act to remove the cancer of Syamsuianism from his site.

Friday, 10 January 2014

An Apology to Mohammad Nur Syamsu (Previously Known as Nando Ronteltap)

Before I get to the apology, I need to set the context.

In An Atheist Onslaught on Free Will? I shared a little of my opening salvoes and some of the responses to those salvoes in a discussion largely with the person who started the thread, Syamsu.  At last count that discussion, at the Online Philosophy Club, runs to 732 posts of which more than 200 are by Syamsu (although I am almost as bad with more than 100 posts).

The vast majority of posts by other people have been efforts to get Syamsu to properly explain his position.  Many of Syamsu’s responses have been a reiteration of his poorly explained position, for example post #638 in the thread:

The concept of free will does not work without a thing which 1 chooses, 2 this thing can be only identified by a way of choosing it is there or not, resulting in an opinion. That is the role which the spirit serves in the concept of free will. It chooses, and it can only be identified as a matter of opinion, not fact. That is how our emotions become to be regarded as a matter of opinion, and beauty is regarded as a matter of opinion.

Occasionally, Syamsu will make a “clarification” of his own:

It is clearly weak and revealing of error to argue that we move from unsatisfactory into preferred. Opinions must be made categorically distinct from facts, very obviously. You are simply conceiving of choosing as meaning to sort out the best result, which can only ever be a highly complicated way of choosing (or metaphorical choosing), which complex decision involves sorting as a secondary process. It is not relevant to how choosing works fundamentally, which is only about the aspects which are the same for every decision, including the simplest decision.

It occurred to me that Syamsu might not be a native English speaker – due to occasional wordconcatenation and his leaving out definite article from time to time.  I asked him whether English is his native language to which he responded with:

… your argument is....that it isn't english. You don't even point out specifically whatvis invalid, ofcourse, you just pronounce this fascistic dismissal that it is not english. So there is nothing I can do to improve communication, because you don't point out any specific fault in english. Pure fascistic nonsense, trying to silence any opposition to your views on a farfetched technicality. You offer no argument.

Oh well, if he was not going to tell me, I was going to have to work it out myself.

What a little odyssey that set me on!  Little did I then know that Syamsu is famous, or at least he was famous in a previous incarnation.  In fact, at that time, I knew next to nothing about the guy.

Syamsu, in one form or another, has been interacting with atheists on the net for almost 18 years at least, visiting alt.atheism in particular to voice his views (where some posts imply that he’s used a range of pseudonyms).

Researching the history of Syamsu was quite revealing and he presents as an object lesson in a number of ways.

The first object lesson is that everything on the net is recorded and, if they are lucky and resourceful, people can dig up some of that recorded internet history.  For example, a relatively quick search revealed that Syamsu is an argumentative type who has been trying to spread his views on free will in a number of areas – including at least four wikis, with differing levels of success.
He’s been most successful at CreationWiki, the site that he references as authoritative in his original post (his having writing that entry is a fact I was not aware of when I wrote the first article introducing Syamsu).  He was less successful at Conservapedia, Ameriwiki and RationalWiki (in descending order of success). 

Ameriwiki was interesting because one of the moderators there had found that Syamsu has earlier written a document in Dutch about his free will theories.  In the article An Atheist Onslaught on Free Will? I talked about a chap I referred to as Otto von Oddball who by an amazing coincidence was also Dutch.  Are Syamsu and Otto von Oddball the same person?

When we look at Conservapedia, we find that Syamsu used to be called Nando Ronteltap, and that his current name is Muhammad Nur Syamsu.  Amazing!  Ronteltap is a Dutch name!

Once you have these two names, a whole feast of information becomes available.  For instance, Nando Ronteltap has a FaceBook page where he nominates, as an inspirational person, Prophet Mohammed (s.a.v) – yep, that’s right, the Prophet has a FaceBook page.  This is only fair, I suppose, since God has one.

You can also find out that Muhammad Nur Syamsu maintains a presence at Amazon, but strangely he gives, as his location, Malang in Indonesia.  This is curious because a separate search on the words Muhammad and Syamsu brings up a chap called “Muhammad Noor Syamsu Vikitoria” who works rather close to Malang, but he’s apparently not the same guy as Nando Ronteltap (well, not according to the LinkedIn photo for the chap).


At this point I was suspecting that something fishy was going on.  Was Nando impersonating some poor guy in Indonesia?  Or is his photo on LinkedIn incorrect?

Sad to say I made my suspicions known and I basically accused Nando of being duplicitous.  I was pretty sure he was, but I didn’t know exactly how and I knew that it was unlikely that he would tell me.

Some more digging would be necessary.


This further digging led to another object lesson, but although it’s an object lesson, the lesson one extracts from it is quite possibly subjective.

The thing is, while in recent history Nando/Syamsu has shown to be aggressive and more a little off his rocker, and he doesn’t play well with others, via the magic of the interwebs, we can see what Nando Ronteltap was like in April and May 1996.  Compared to the person he is today, the Nando Ronteltap of 1996 was a paragon of clarity and reason.  Sure, he was anti-atheist even back then and he seemed to already be an undisciplined and lazy thinker (for example he couldn’t be bothered checking whether he still agreed with something he wrote earlier), but he genuinely seemed to want to make himself clear and he was interacting with other people in an almost friendly way.

What happened to that person?

This is where subjectivity will creep in.  People who are inimical to Islam in particular might want to blame his conversion to Islam.

Personally I don’t think that this is the case.  For example, Nando was banned from alt.atheism (a banning as the Dutch dude Nando Ronteltap) before returning as the Muslim man Syamsu.  He was using “Mohammad Nor Syamsu” as far back as December 2001 and in that post he seems quite together so whatever happened to him must have taken place in the past 12 years.  Another reason that I don’t think that it is Islam that has destroyed Nando’s reason because while he’s vehemently anti-atheist in his tirades, he’s not particularly pro-religion of any sort, he certainly doesn’t present as a fundamentalist convert.  Yes, he talks about a spiritual realm but he rarely mentions god (and doesn’t use the term “Allah”).

Other people will posit alternative answers to the question “what happened to Nando Ronteltap”:

·         People who are anti-science will point at Syamsu’s scientific leanings.

·         Rationalists will point out that those leanings are more like pseudoscientific leanings (also known as nonsense).

·         Some atheists might suggest that Syamsu’s corroded capacity for reason explains why Syamsu is religious in the first place, while others might say he was just a little soft in the head in the beginning and that it was when he strayed into mysticism and formalised religion that the rot really set in.

·         People who are inimical to nonbelief will confidently declare that this sort of outcome is what should be expected after close to two decades of arguing with atheists, that exposing one’s mind to such arguments would be sure to drive even the strongest theist towards total madness.

For myself, I think the culprit is more likely to be his bizarre theory about how “free will” and “subjectivity” work – possibly combined with the effect of drugs in earlier life or the natural onset of a mental illness.


And we now we arrive at the main point of the article.  It would appear that I’ve been unfairly suspecting Syamsu of duplicity.

In May 2002, on a CreationVersusEvolution forum post, Syamsu said he has emigrated from Holland to Indonesia “some time ago”.  Therefore it’s entirely possible that he does in fact live in Malang Indonesia under the name Mohammad Nur Syamsu, just as his Amazon account indicates.  And it’s entirely possible that it is mere coincidence that living not so far away is another guy with a very similar name.

So here it is:

Syamsu, I was wrong to suspect you of duplicity and I unreservedly apologise for that.  I’m also filled to the brim with factual certitude that you are not Otto von Oddball.