Posts

So, yesterday was pretty crazy, huh?

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When a mob of pro-Trump extremists broke into the Capitol building yesterday, it was both surreal and strangely unsurprising. It was the logical culmination not just of Trump's presidency, but of the increasingly insular and radical conservative media ecosystem. Trump was the match, but the kindling has been laid ever since Fox News rose to prominence with its slogan "Fair & Balanced" - implying, of course, that other networks were neither. In the last few years, I and many people I know have lost relationships with family and friends as they descended down an increasingly extreme and bizarre rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and identity politics. Recently I sat quietly as my girlfriend's dad explained, without a hint of irony, that George Soros and the Rockafeller family were funding BLM and Antifa in an attempt to install communists governments in "liberal" cities, and that "Hollywood" is in cahoots with congressional Democrats in a child-k

How evangelical culture and porn warped my idea of male sex drive

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A lot of men my age (I'm 40) get on some kind of sex-boosting pill. Snake oil supplements promising to improve your manliness quotient by 4000% are a dime a dozen. Testosterone replacement clinics are popping up all over the place (which I actually think is a good thing, but not necessarily for sex). At my work, there are basically two types of commercials on the radio: car dealerships promising easy credit approval, and male-enhancing clinics or supplements. Here's the thing about "erectile dysfunction": it's a made-up syndrome used to sell pills. There's no medical criteria for ED; essentially, a man just goes to his doctor and says he's not getting hard when he wants or expects to, or he's not staying hard as long as he wants or expects to, or he's not ejaculating as soon as he wants or too soon or not as often or not at all. Essentially, ED means "I'm not performing the way I expect to be." But where are those expectations comin

Randal Rauser on religious consensus

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It's been a really long time since I wrote a post on one of Randal Rauser's arguments. But as luck would have it, it's a lazy Saturday, I was perusing his blog, and I found a recent post of his in which he links to the following video: Do watch the video before continuing, because I'm not going to explain what it's about. Instead, I want to systematically address his arguments as well as discuss his response to me on his blog. Just a heads-up on my own position: I think that the lack of a consensus is a serious problem for Christianity, for several reasons. First, it stands to reason that if holding true belief is integral to one's salvation, and if God loves all his human creations and wants them to be saved, it would be woefully counterproductive for God to allow humans to stumble into a vast number of schisms that often result from disagreements over basic doctrinal beliefs. Sure, some Christians disagree about which day of the week the Sabbath is supp

What conservatives think liberals believe vs what liberals actually believe

You can't throw a rock at conservative media right now without hitting some kind of fear-mongering about socialism . You see, the liberals are coming, and they're all socialists who want to tax you into oblivion, create dependency on the government, and make the government as large and intrusive as possible. Conservatives paint themselves as business-friendly by advocating for deregulation, tax cuts, fiscal responsibility, and privatization. It doesn't take much effort to look at the history of conservative governance to see that this idealism doesn't play out. "Deregulation" is essentially code for "erosion of consumer protections to favor the profiteering of multinational corporations." The advocates of "fiscal responsibility" don't seem to mind that Trump is running a nearly $1 trillion deficit. I could go on, and on. But I want to talk about the fear-mongering over liberalism, because it's not new. The notion that liberals c

Is the media liberally biased?

As long as I can remember in my 40 years on Earth, conservatives have claimed that the "mainstream media" is liberally biased and cannot be trusted to be objective. This has spawned a sprawling conservative media ecosystem - Daily Wire, Daily Caller, Brietbart, Fox News, Pluralist, The Federalist, etc. - which views itself as a bulwark against the onslaught of liberal media. There's a really big problem with that claim, though - there's really not much evidence for it outside of peoples' own perception. You probably would not be surprised to learn that most of what is viewed as "biased" depends strongly on one's political leanings. Worse, it's essentially an unfalsifiable claim. During the 2016 elections, Snopes was widely derided as a "liberal" news source despite the fact that it's simply a fact-checking website that cites all of its sources in every article. Conservatives even think Wikipedia is liberally biased , and I'm

Ben Shapiro and the culture of conservative privilege

I remember reading the quote in which Ben Shapiro said "People who are poor their entire lives are just bad with money." Then there was the classic that if sea levels rose and started flooding homes in coastal cities, people could just "sell their houses and move" because apparently Aquaman is in the homeowners market (thanks, hbomberguy ). And then recently was the comment that if a job isn't paying a living wage, you should just go get a higher paying job - like higher incomes are something you just go out and get, like milk and cheese or a MAGA hat. Shaprio called working for less than a living wage " a you problem ." The stupidity and willful ignorance of such comments should be so obvious as to not even require discussion. And yet, here we are. And tempting though it may be to pin Shaprio as uniquely obtuse, these comments show a trend that's prevalent in right-wing media: the struggles of the poor and working class are consistently framed as

Ballsy idea of the day: "the mind" does not exist

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I have this crazy, far-out idea: we should stop talking about "the mind" as though it is some kind of object or thing that has to be "explained." The problem is that conceptualizing mental phenomena as "the mind" presupposes that there are properties distinct from the physical brain - i.e., mental properties - that need to be explained in some way. Here's an alternative. Instead of characterizing mental processes as "the mind," we can use the empirically-responsible term: cognition . Cognition is the process  of brain activity. It includes perception, language, metaphor, memory, and decision-making. Why is this little semantic change a big deal? Because cognition is an empirical, scientific term. It accounts for all the above phenomena - all the things we associate with conscious experience. They are all derived from neurological activity in the brain. With this conceptual reframing, we can do away with a few superfluous assumptions tha