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Showing posts from July, 2014

Was Richard Dawkins 'mansplaining' rape?

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I cringe every time I hear the pseudo-word "mansplain". It's hardcore feminist slang for when a man comments on women's issues in some purportedly unenlightened manner, and it exemplifies the kind of black and white thinking and reactionary antagonism that characterizes a small but vocal subset of modern feminists in that the term exists to broadly undermine any sort of discourse that doesn't kowtow to an idiosyncratic point of view. Anyone who dares disagree is immediately branded and marginalized, further reinforcing the tribal groupthink that led to the creation of such a deplorable term in the first place.

Anyway, though. It's because of this:



Which led to this article by blogger Erin Gloria Ryan:

Thank Goodness Richard Dawkins Has Finally Mansplained Rape

As usual, a little context clarifies the issue. So, here's Richard Dawkins' in his own words, as part of a rather fantastic essay:
I now turn to the other Twitter controversy in which I have been…

Does truly selfless altruism exist?

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There's a pretty thorough scientific body of evidence that a great deal of 'moral' behavior in humans can be explained by reciprocal altruism, and that's a point that even the most hard-nosed theist is generally hesitant to dispute. Reciprocity drives an incalculable range of human cooperation, and it's an essential component of social behavior given our obligatory interdependence. The 'Golden Rule' itself is a maxim of reciprocal altruism, essentially saying I will respect your needs and interests as I wish you to respect my own.

But is there such a thing as true altruism, behavior that has absolutely no selfish component whatsoever? I'm skeptical. I tried to think of the most extreme example of altruism, and I got a little help from Wikipedia: altruistic suicide. The example is a soldier who, in wartime, jumps on a grenade to save his comrades. Clearly, there can be no reciprocal benefit since the soldier is dead. But does this really defy explanatio…

John Loftus' Outsider Test for Faith

Last night as I was replacing bookmarks thanks to my new install of Windows, I stopped by my old Christian stomping ground at Randal Rauser's blog. I was dismayed to see the self-indulgent 'critique' of John Loftus' new book. You have to love the pomposity of a statement like "his book is beset by cognitive biases and lack of epistemic virtue as I have demonstrated in parts 1-9 of this review" — not argued, mind you, but demonstrated. Checkmate, atheist!

Anyway, the old curmudgeon brings up a sensible point:
[Loftus'] test is generally presented as a punctiliar event or delimited process of religious self-examination. This too limits its value, for human beings always need to check our biases and cultivate epistemic virtue. We are forever works in process. You don’t pass a single test and then get confirmed as “clear” (and that includes Tom Cruise). Consequently, Loftus’ so-called outsider test conveys a very misleading impression that one can pass a…

Yeah, about 10% of your income!

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Everyone wants to be happy. So, Jesus.

For some reason, YouTube's ad targeting has stuck this video in my ad rotation, usually when I'm watching music or, as was the case today, a review of a guitar. Totally logical.



The video is pretty standard-issue Christian evangelizing, and whenever I hear the quasi-profound rambling that constitutes the pitch for Christianity, my bullshit detector goes into hyperdrive and I find myself recalling many of the reasons I think Christianity is ridiculous.

This video is notable for really being only a worthy pitch to cultural Christians — y'know, people who have a sort of latent belief in God and an intrinsic association of the church with positive things. That's because it's only moments into the video before the narrator explains that there's this all-powerful being who gives our lives purpose and will judge our eternal souls when we die. I could unfurl a scroll with a list of all the unsubstantiated assumptions underlying such a deceptively simple statement.

Here…

A farewell letter to arguing over the internet

I had a thought tonight. Maybe I'll stick with it, maybe not. I'm gonna try.

I'm juggling a lot. My business (including the marketing and design side), my fiance and our impending wedding, guitar, reading, writing, upkeep on our house, etc. etc. Granted, it's nothing extraordinary. I don't have kids, thank goodness, and my schedule could be a lot more crowded.

Nonetheless, I have to prioritize. Guitar is a big deal to me, definitely much more than just a hobby, and I haven't been satisfied with the amount of practice I've been getting in. I also don't read as much as I'd like, and it's just kind of a running joke (with myself) that I have this massive back catalog of half-read or untouched books. I also have a totally bitchin' gaming PC, so when I have some free time I like to bust out some Assassin's Creed IV or some graphics-whoring FPS.

The two biggest non-essential time drains for me are 1) dicking around on the internet, and 2) deba…

The best thing ever happened

Just kidding. My hard drive died over the weekend. I've been building my own gaming PCs since 2006, and I've never had a hard drive fail. The one that died was a solid-state drive too, which are supposed to last much longer than mechanical drives. But by 'last longer' they apparently just mean the read/write cycles, because the memory controllers? Oh yeah, they're crap.

So, I've unexpectedly upgraded my PC. My nifty new drive (Samsung Evo 840) is twice the size of my old one, and it's pretty crazy how much faster and cheaper SSDs have gotten since I bought my first one some five years ago.

Long story short, that's why I haven't blogged lately, and I'm now in the exciting and fun process of reinstalling all my programs, games, and apps, and of course there's the breathtaking suspense of reconfiguring Windows to my preferred settings. I've been following the conversations in the comments of my recent posts though, and I have plenty to add.…

Me and Steven Jake on metaphysics: bonus round

This is well-trodden territory, but I just spent some two hours typing up this massive reply to Steven's post Brute facts and naturalism, so I thought I'd repost the comment in full, and clean up the formatting a bit. It's long. Grab a sandwich.

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Steven, I'm going to attempt to tie everything back together. I agree that things have strayed a bit and I applaud your patience and the not-insignificant time you've devoted to combing through my arguments, so I want to attempt to redirect and summarize. I'll quote you when I feel it's relevant to my reply, but otherwise I'll try to address your arguments more broadly.

If I were to phrase your original argument into a syllogism, I think a fair summary would look something like this:
An explanation is the process by which something becomes intelligible (your words)The universe is somethingErgo, the universe must have an explanation, or it is unintelligible But I think your definition of 'exp…

Quote of the day

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A friend of mine on Facebook posted this to his page some time ago, and I totally love it. It definitely comes to mind whenever I see some pretentious blowhard accusing someone of speaking out of turn for not having read this or that obscure academic work in some esoteric sub-discipline of theology or philosophy.



My response to the church invitation

Earlier this week, I wrote out a hand-written response to the family friends who invited my fiance Vanessa and I to their church. Vanessa read it and suggested some changes (with a nod to alert reader 'Lunaticus'), so to save time I opted to reply to them via email. Here's my reply in full:
Vanessa and I both appreciate the invitation, and we both know that it comes from a place of sincerity for both of you. As non-believers, Vanessa and I often feel a bit marginalized given that we live in such a religiously-minded society. To that end, we tend to keep our religious views to ourselves. Our beliefs have, on occasion, caused some friction within our families so we generally feel it's a topic best left alone.

Over the years, she and I have both been invited to countless church services, implored to talk to church leaders (we have), given books on Christian theology and apologetics, and drawn into debates in which our beliefs are put on the defensive. Just this …

Are we on the verge of a new quantum revolution?

When faced with the bizarre nature of quantum indeterminism, Einstein was convinced that there was something wrong with the equations, quipping "God does not play dice". But the mathematics couldn't be denied, and the idea that nature is fundamentally probabilistic became ingrained in quantum mechanics. The bizarre, counter-intuitive implications of this have vexed physicists and philosophers for nearly a century.
If the hype is to be believed, the stage may be set for a paradigm shift. There's an article from Wired that's been making the rounds recently which describes researchers in fluid dynamics being able to create quantum-like effects in classical systems, such as the interference pattern in the famous double-slit experiment:
In a groundbreaking experiment, the Paris researchers used the droplet setup to demonstrate single- and double-slit interference. They discovered that when a droplet bounces toward a pair of openings in a damlike barrier, it passes th…

I was invited to church, and I found it kind of offensive

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Yesterday my fiance Vanessa and I received a letter from some friends of my family, saying that they had found a new church and wanted to invite us to come. To some, the letter might have seemed well-intentioned and innocuous, but I couldn't help feeling a bit offended by it.


The text is probably not very clear, but the gist of it is that they found a new church and wanted to invite us. Now, they know that Vanessa and I are non-religious. In this case, the wife asked my mother for my and Vanessa's address, and explained why. Knowing how touchy the subject can be, my mother was wary, which is why the women who wrote the letter emphasized that my mother didn't put her up to this. In her words, she was "moved" to write me.

Now, I'm sure in some people's universes this is a kind gesture. But here, I just felt it was somewhat rude by virtue of being insensitive to my and Vanessa's religious beliefs (or lack thereof). I'm sure they would feel the same i…

Man heals people with amazing stare

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Here's one to make you lose faith in humanity: a man who goes by "Braco" claims to be able to perform miracles of healing (among others) through his "silent gaze":


Gawker has the full story here. Let this be a reminder that people believe this stupid shit today, in our modern, scientific era. But if it happened 2,000 years ago in antiquity and the reports weren't documented for many decades afterwards, well gosh, it must be true!