Apologetics for the Status Quo

I have a few philosophical obsessions/interests in my life, of which 3 are:

  1. The desire for extreme longevity
  2. ethical non-monogamy
  3. atheism.

These subjects interest me greatly and have each lead me to stand apart from the mainstream in many ways (though atheism is of course becoming much more mainstream all the time).

That said, I accept wholeheartedly that other people don’t have the same interests or desires as me. If you want to die in old age. Fine. If you want to believe in God. Fine. If you are certain that Monogamy is the only option for you. Fine.

But I am starting to get incredibly frustrated by the apologists out there who argue for the maintenance of any of these status quos.

With all 3 of these status quo situations, people who argue for their maintenance are as much a consequence of the system as they are part of its perpetuation. And the blindness to this reality is so very difficult to overcome within the usual 30second snippet interactions. You actually have to tear down the whole system and start again before they realise that their arguments only make sense ‘because that’s how it has always been done!’

It feels like arguing with a slaver who insists that slaves actually like being given structure. Or misogynists who insist that women like having lower positions in companies. And then having them point out examples which validate their arguments. yeah, it might even be true…but only because the system is rigged to make it true, and because people are incredibly malleable and so adjust to the bullshit world they are raised in.

So yeah, you have convinced yourself that you ‘really want to die in old age’ – but I promise you that is only because you resigned yourself to that fate because it feels helpless and pointless to do otherwise.

And I bet that 90% of the people out there who are CERTAIN that monogamy is the only option for them, would be certain that they could never be monogamous if everyone was non-monogamous. It is just a coping mechanism because from early childhood it is made clear to us that there is only one option, and to fight the system is pointless and a lost battle. You must step in line, and you might as well ‘enjoy it’.

So then, when people ‘cheat’ in the rigged system which they had fooled themselves into believing they wanted, everyone acts shocked. The blindness of people looking in on this just leaves me dumbfounded.

sexual healing screenshot don't get caught south park

 

It reminds me of a great South Park Episode called Sexual Healing. Here are a couple of excerpts from it:

 

Chairman: I’ve gathered you together here because you are the best minds our country has to offer. As you’ve all seen on the news, our country is facing a major crisis, and we need to find out what’s causing it. [the men glance at each other] Why? Why are rich successful men suddenly going out and trying to have sex with lots of women?
Expert 1: [with mustache and black coat] Tiger Woods was only the most prevalent, but our data shows that the numbers are growing. David Letterman and before that, Bill Clinton. There’s a pattern here, people.
Expert 2: [with mustache and midnight blue coat] Why would a man who’s famous and makes tons of money use that and have sex with lots of different women? [glances at the woman to his left, then looks ahead again]
Chairman: [stands up] Aand these rich celebrities have perfectly good wives at home. Why would they even think of sex with others? Dammit![pounds the table with his right fist, but manages only a soft blow] I want answers!
Expert 3: [balding, with lab coat] We believe that it may be an outbreak of sex addiction, sir.

 

Chairman: Mr. President, in every test the results were the same. The monkeys who were given cash always acted out their sexual addiction to dangerous levels. It appears that money has a direct effect on the virus’s ability to develop.
Obama: So we must keep our nation’s youth away from money and success.
Chairman: No good, Mr. President. Because we’ve learned that sex addicts will find ways to make money and become successful in order to feed their addiction.
Obama: You mean boys will start working towards being rich and successful just so they can one day have sex with lots of women??
Chairman: Yes. That’s why we decided to look at the cash itself for clues! We tried to find something in the hundred dollar bill that could explain why this is happening now. Then we looked at the backside, and found this. [points to the picture of Independence Hall on the back of the bill]Independence Hall.
Obama: The birthplace of our country.
Chairman: We believe something is happening in Independence Hall that gives money its power over men.
Obama: Independence Hall… Independence Day… Aliens… Gentlemen, I might know what’s causing the sex addiction outbreak. This is highly classified, but… in 1947 a flying saucer was discovered in Roswell, New Mexico. Two deceased alien bodies were recovered and hidden from public knowledge. They carried… a virus with them. A virus that only barely stopped from spreading all over the country.
Chairman: And you think that these aliens… could be back with a new virus? One originating from Independence Hall causing rich successful men to have sex with lots of women?!
Obama: [seriously] It’s the only explanation that makes any sense. [glances at Michelle, who doesn’t react, then looks at the chairman again]

 

 

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Christianity

These are not new, but I often forget them, so I wanted to post them somewhere so I can find them when I need them.

The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.
Yeah, christianity makes sense.
and then there is the following, which is a greatly summarised version of the version below:
god will sacrifice himself to himself to appease himself

The Plan of Salvation

(as written by Mageth on Infidels)

God himself created man and woman and placed them in a garden, in “his own image”, but got righteously angry at them when they ate, against his wish, and after being tempted by a talking serpent that god himself had somehow allowed to slither about in the garden, a tasty, beautiful fruit, though he himself had placed it there but neglected to instill in his creations the knowledge of good and evil so that they would know it was wrong to eat it. Being omniscient, of course, he knew all this before he started, but was apparently unable to do anything about it because he had planned it this way from the beginning, and apparently god cannot change anything he already knows, in spite of the fact that he’s omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent.

Later, God himself impregnated a virgin so that he himself could be born a human, a ManGod. This was necessary, apparently, because only his own ManGod blood could appease himself and deliver humans, who he created, and who he knew would muck things up by eating the fruit, from his own righteous anger.

Of course, he waited several thousand years to implement this divine plan, in the meantime taking the righteous action of drowning every creature on the planet except a few he could stuff on a boat. Not to mention handing down a Law that served to further condemn every one of us, and in which Law he himself had them frequently sacrifice animals to appease himself, though he knew the blood of animals didn’t really appease himself.

Much later, god, in a garden, prayed to himself to “take this cup” away from himself, though he himself knew that he himself had planned the coming events from the beginning and knew that not even he himself could save himself, even though he was god and omnipotent, omniscient, etc. Accepting this, he said, in effect, “Not my will, but my will.”

God then sacrificed himself to himself to save us from himself. (or had himself sacrificed; not much of a distinction between the two, really) Before dying, he himself asked he himself why he had forsaken himself.

He himself, being dead, then raised himself from the dead less than 40 hours later, though he himself had said he’d be dead for three days and three nights, which he could do because he was still alive, and later he himself pulled himself up into heaven where he himself apparently already was, and where he himself is described as now sitting at the right hand of himself.

He himself then sent himself (or a ghost of himself, if you please) back to earth to be a comfort to us, though he himself is still sitting at the right hand of himself.

And, glory hallelujah, he himself promised that he himself will return someday, though he himself is already here, and will still be there, to snatch up those who believe the god blood sacrifice story he himself told us, and kill the rest of us who don’t believe the god blood sacrifice story, no matter how nice we were otherwise. But, since killing us isn’t enough to appease his righteousness, he himself will then judge us, though according to ManGod he himself will also not judge us, and being a god of love will cast most of us into hell for an eternity of suffering. He has to, of course, because he is a righteous, just god, and can’t figure out a way to save anyone who hasn’t been redeemed by god-blood, even though he is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, and loves us all.

 

So yeah. Christianity seems pretty silly to me.

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Debating Creationists (Or any other anti-science position)

So Bill Nye just finished debating Ken Ham at the Creation Museum and I actually sat and watched the whole thing live. I have tended to agree with Richard Dawkins about the problems of debating creationists, and the fact that Bill Nye agreed to this intrigued me (since it seems most people agree with Dawkins here, and there have been very few high profile science educators doing these sorts of debates for many years now).

Why We Should Debate Creationists

However, in considering what Nye could do with this debate I started to change my mind. That change was confirmed when I saw the 500,000+ live viewers of the debate on YouTube (and who knows how many more will watch it over the weeks, months and years to come). So apparently there is an appetite for this sort of a debate. Apparently people want to see it. And by agreeing to do these sorts of debates….by going in to the heart of the beast (The CREATION MUSEUM no less), you are getting knowledgeable scientists in front of the very people who most need to hear what they have to say!

Think about that. If Dawkins or Bill Nye went to Tennessee and did a talking tour, would one tenth of that audience have turned up at his lecture? No. But they will turn up to watch their favourite Creationist teach him about the Bible! So this sort of event is a great opportunity for Science educators, what can we do with it?

Don’t Debate – Just Teach

We have the audience we most need to reach, so lets take advantage of that. How do we do that? We focus on teaching them science. Forget the debate. Don’t even bother trying to win it…. just focus on teaching the audience something that they can grasp in the short time you have, and something they will remember. Then keep hammering it home.

And that brings me to the critical part of this article – as much as I love Bill Nye, and appreciate the pressure of performing live in a clearly hostile territory, I found myself mostly disappointed with what he said during the debate. No doubt he did say some great stuff which should have left any creationist stuck for an answer, and hopefully questioning how it is that they believe what they believe, but unfortunately, he also said a lot of things which didn’t do that very well. And the lots of things which weren’t spectacular, can unfortunately drown out the few spectacular things. I know they shouldn’t, but they do. And so the problem is that the audience is quickly distracted away from the strong point which is challenging their beliefs, and they refocus their thought process on this new weaker point which they quickly dismiss because *insert mental gymnastic reason here*.

Watching Bill list of all of the reasons we know the universe is the way it is felt like he just wanted everyone to know all of the knowledge behind all of those facts…but this isn’t how it works. Instead it sounds to the ignorant like Gish Gallop and none of it actually sticks because they don’t really understand what any of it means. It is all just words, until something is actually explained in detail!

There cannot be any assumed knowledge in a debate in the creation museum!

Don’t Skim Many Points. Teach Deeply on Few

I think Bill tried to cover too much ground and didn’t go into nearly enough depth in any of them to actually show how and why they are justified. By skimming across the surface this way, you end up actually coming across to them exactly like they come across to us. “We know radiation exists, therefore we know radiometric dating works, and that is how we date the age of the planet!” sounds as compelling to them as “The Bible tells us God made it” sounds to us. “Radiometric dating tells us” doesn’t actually explain anything…

So, what I really want to encourage future debaters to focus on doing when given this opportunity, is to pick the strongest 2 or 3 pieces of evidence we have for our scientific worldview, quickly put them in context of all of the other pieces of evidence perhaps, but then spend your entire allotted time explaining exactly how it is that we know those 2 or 3 pieces of evidence. TEACH the audience the history of that knowledge. Show them the experiments which verify it. Explain the logic behind it. And then just keep hammering those three points.

If you pick your points well, you can probably structure it so that you can keep coming back to one or the other to address the same questions and claims Creationists will always come up with. Say you pick Limestone creation as one of your points. You can use that (and that alone!) to show how the story of Noah is impossible. And you can use it as corroborating evidence to give us an indication of how old the planet it. And you can use it to show that we know about tectonic plate movement and uplift etc.

Pick a couple of key pieces of knowledge, explain them well, then use only those pieces of knowledge to rebut everything they say, and show how we know what we are talking about. (and of course, occasionally remind them that this is just 3 of hundreds of lines of evidence that we have.)

And if we have more of these debates, and every different debater picks different points to argue from, we might slowly teach the creationists geology, paleontology, astronomy, biology etc…. one subject at a time.

Shane

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Vaccinations and Vaccination Information in Australia

Vaccination is one of the most important and valuable medical treatments our civilisation has ever invented. Possibly only second to Antibiotics. Sadly there are a small group of very vocal people who work to cast doubt on the value, safety and efficacy of this incredibly important medical treatment.

But forget about them, because there is a lot of good information out there, you just need to know where to look. Here are a few websites I recommend starting at:

  1. http://www.vaccination.org.au/
  2. http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/
  3. http://www.health.wa.gov.au/flu/vaccination/index.cfm

And also take the time to check out the Stop the Australian Vaccination Network page, to highlight the lies, hypocrisy and dangers that the Australian Vaccination Network pose on Australian citizens.

Vaccination is important. It saves lives. And if you can get vaccinated, you should, for the people who can’t. The immuno-compromised  the frail, and the vulnerable.

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Since When is Boston Gotham City?

What the fuck? I just read an interesting article on Mother Jones which lists 11 mystifying things the Tsarnaev brothers did, and one of them in particular made me double take; Number 7:

The quest to find a working ATM was how they ended up, coincidentally, at a 7/11 in Cambridge around the same time it was the scene of an armed robbery, and were spotted on the store security camera.

So these two brothers, who had just set off bombs in a crowded public area a few days earlier, while trying to escape the police by carjacking some random person and stealing money from their bank accounts, just happen across another armed robbery happening. Completely unrelated.

Either this is an astronomically unlikely event, or Boston is like Gotham City without batman, and crime is just around every corner.

Insane

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Correcting the Internet – The difficulties, and a new approach

I just published a new article reviewing an academic paper on the rbutr blog:

 

Review of The Promise and Peril of Real-Time Corrections to Political Misperceptions by Garret and Weeks

by SHANE on APRIL 17, 2013

Research published in the Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) Journal shows that apps which highlight incorrect information and provide real time corrections may actually be less effective at changing the minds of people who have a pre-disposition to agree with the incorrect information, than time-delayed correction techniques are.

Here I will review the paper, and then reflect on its findings from the perspective of our efforts (rbutr) to create an alternative system of ‘error correction’ in the form of a semantic linkage between claim-rebuttal webpage pairs.

 

Read the rest on the rbutr blog.

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The Problems with Rupert Sheldrake’s TEDx Talk

Rupert Sheldrake has stood on stage at a TEDx conference and listed the 10 dogmas of science:

  • Dogma 1. Machinistic Universe
  • Dogma 2. Matter is unconscious (not even we are)
  • Dogma 3. The laws of nature are fixed
  • Dogma 4. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same
  • Dogma 5. Nature is purposeless
  • Dogma 6. Biological heredity is material
  • Dogma 7. Memories are stored inside your brain as material
  • Dogma 8. Your mind is inside your head
  • Dogma 9. Psychic and Telepathy is impossible
  • Dogma 10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works

He didn’t have time to go in to all of these dogmas, but he does expand upon two of them briefly – Dogma 3, and then Dogma 2 – with a story about his brief library-based-research and discussion with a professor to attain his understandings of these ‘dogmas’.

Perhaps he explains this in his book, but in this talk Dr Sheldrake completely fails to explain why it is that science has come up with these dogmas. I mean, religions have dogma because their truths come from a static holy book, or a leader of some kind. But why did ‘Science’ – whatever entity that is exactly – somehow pick and choose its dogmas?

Let’s look at his story about the speed of light. He explains that there were different speeds in the past, and then over time they settled on a speed, and just fixed it at that speed and said it couldn’t change. He doesn’t explain WHY they would arbitrarily decide that the speed of light was constant. There is no holy book to decree it. There is no leader of science who forces scientists to believe it. Why do scientists believe it to be the case? More importantly, why would they ignore the evidence to the contrary which they must surely all by uncovering in the millions of experiments which have been done on light over the last 10 or 20 decades of increasingly sophisticated technological sophistication?

Sheldrake does the same thing with the Gravitational constant. Another story, another accusation of tampering for the purposes of maintaining the dogma, but no explanation for what motivation there is behind the dogmatic belief. WHY would anyone subscribe to a belief like this without a reason? Why would such a claim be set up dogmatically in the first place?

Sheldrake states that “scientists are now wholly owned subsidiaries of the materialist world view” and I think as the talk progresses, he reveals the chasm between the Science, and his position. Because while he wants to paint scientists as brainwashed citizens controlled by a materialistic dogma, the idea that materialism requires Science to dogmatically claim that there are constants is completely absurd. Obviously our materialistic science also involves the theory of evolution, continental drift, and expanding universe to name just a few non-constants. Now if we juxtapose the way Sheldrake has framed Science against Sheldrake’s claims in this talk, you can see that Sheldrake is simply insisting that his ignorance, his personal feelings, and his pre-conceived conclusions are more informing, more important and more accurate than the conclusions reached via the process of scientific concensus over the course of decades.

He complains that scientists don’t even consider that the speed of light may vary. Sadly this claim comes from his ignorance, not from his understanding. He is a biochemist, not a physicist nor even a historian of science.  Just like the scientists who are creationists tend to never be biological scientists, and the scientists who are critical of Climate Science are never climatologists, here we have a Biochemist being critical of fundamental physics. The only evidence we really have that all of these scientists who have investigated the speed of light over the years have ‘assumed’ it is a constant is because Dr Sheldrake THINKS that that is what they have done.

This problem is rife in his talk. He regularly declares that scientists has made ‘assumptions’ though in reality it seems to mostly be based on the fact that Dr Sheldrake doesn’t know why it is that scientists reached their conclusions, and has therefore assumed that they assumed it. A little googling will provide you with numerous resources which explain why it is that science has settled on the claim that light and the gravitational constant are indeed constants. This article was particularly good: Have Physical Constants Changed with Time? I like it mostly because of this quote:

Over the past few decades, there have been extensive searches for evidence of variation of fundamental “constants.” Among the methods used have been astrophysical observations of the spectra of distant stars, searches for variations of planetary radii and moments of inertia, investigations of orbital evolution, searches for anomalous luminosities of faint stars, studies of abundance ratios of radioactive nuclides, and (for current variations) direct laboratory measurements.

Which of course completely contradicts Dr Sheldrake’s entire claim – that scientists don’t question the dogmas. Sorry Dr Sheldrake, but just because the questioning of the ‘dogma’ continues to yield the same results over and over, and just because you don’t WANT those results, does not mean that no one is questioning them.

“Why don’t Laws of nature evolve in an evolving universe? “

Because that is not what we have found. No one arbitrarily decided to make it that way. There was no meeting of the head conclave of the sciences, where they all sat down and decided “Lets tell everyone the laws of our evolving universe are constant! That will be hilarious!” Evidence is why scientists are quietly confident that the laws are constant. They haven’t changed! Simple as that.

Morphic Resonance

I’m not going to spend much time on this. I don’t even need to take a position on it – he wants it to be scientific, so all it needs is to be falsifiable, and then do research which could falsify it. Find a way to block the morphic field, and then bring an animal to gestation without it. Or much simpler, actually demonstrate the example he gave on stage of rats on the other side of the planet learning a trick faster, because a rat near you learned a trick. Simple. DO the research, prove it beyond statistical error and confirmation bias, allow other people to repeat the proof. Done. Nobel prize secured.

Science is simple, and it works. Frustratingly, when people like Dr Sheldrake decide that their hypothesis MUST BE TRUE, then the scientific method continues to contradict their pre-chosen conclusion, instead of giving up on the hypothesis, they start attacking science. Very sad. Very destructive.

Sensing things looking at you

Shortly after saying that consciousness doesn’t “Seem” to be in your head – a great method of discerning reality from what is just, you know, in your head – Dr Sheldrake then explains how he ‘thinks’ that our perceptions are projected out and touch the things which are being perceived. He thinks it probably evolved in a predator-prey relationship, where those that could sense better will survive better. What a great falsifiable hypothesis! Shame it lacks any supporting evidence once again!

Of all the species studied, never once have any of them been identified which react because of being gazed upon. Think of Lions stalking a herd of Buffalo. That pride of Lions lay there looking at the buffalo for a long time and the Buffalo don’t react until they see the Lions. Think of the creatures like frogs, lizards and fish who carefully line up its prey, then shoot a tongue or spout of water at them – that prey certainly doesn’t seem to be put off by the predator looking at them.

Worse than that though, if you consider the notion that perhaps just some species evolved this sensing trait – then the predator species trying to hunt them will most likely have to evolve a counter-trait. Hunting with their eyes closed, for example. They could change to Sonar – now there is a sense which definitely does touch the prey…nothing the prey can do about it though, they are flying or swimming as fast as they can already! Maybe instead they could rely on hearing and smell – something dogs do a lot of. But I don’t know of any species which relies exclusively on smell and hearing, except for situations where there is no light. So there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to not using light to see with for predator species – as would be expected by Dr Sheldrake’s projection-sensing hypothesis.

But it FEELS like it should be there to him. So he feels justified arguing that it is right, and all of science is wrong until it agrees with his feelings and conclusions.

So when he finishes his talk by observing that the Dogmas are holding science back, what he really means is that the conclusions reached on the decades of research and consideration done by the many thousands of specialised scientists who have come before him are holding science back from simply agreeing with his feelings, and his chosen conclusions. And his own experimentation designed to prove his conclusions, haven’t been compelling enough for other scientists to join him, so clearly Science itself is at fault.

This is what is wrong with Rupert Shaldrake’s TEDx talk.

 

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Gender Differences and Why They Don’t Matter So Much

Well, it looks like i won’t need to rewrite my post from the other week about how men and women are different, because someone has managed to write out basically what I was thinking, and make it sound good already:

Great job Harriet!

It definitely makes some points I didn’t make, and even corrects some things I said (without being about my non-event of an article of course) – but as a doctor who has actually looked at recent studies (and cited them!) in her article, I find myself agreeing with her article much more than I even agree with my own. I like making progress.

 

 

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Thailand and Random Thoughts

Just a quick update from Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand. We’re 4 days in to our 2 weeks stay here, which is just a stop over on our way back to Australia where I can get back to work with Craig on rbutr. Really excited about getting back to work on that because it has been so long since we have been able to really get any work done on it, and we have had some really good statistics lately in spite of the lack of work and efforts to get publicity. Specifically, last week saw twice as many people as usual adding rebuttals, and we got an article in the Fox News website directly reference rbutr. Oh, and I am also quite excited about having made a contact with a professor who specifically researches computation and programs designed to refute erroneos information online. So there is lots happening there. Can’t wait to see where it all goes.

But for now, it is chill out time in Thailand. Cheap beautiful food, amazing activities, warmth, swimming, massages, rock climbing and kayaking. And probably a few big nights.

Not sure I really have a point for this post. Just thought I would write something while I had a chance. I should be uploading my photos to facebook instead I guess :p

 

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