Friday, October 31, 2008

The Civility Double Standard

I'm sick of apologists and pseudo-moderates coming into skeptical threads spouting the typical hateful propaganda about skeptics, misrepresenting arguments, pretending to know our psychology despite having no experience with us, and then asking us to be respectful.

The double-standard is sickening. Granted, I delve into what I perceive to be woo psychology, but at least I learned from personal experience with woo trolls and reading woo arguments. They "learn" about us from Hollywood and what other woos who don't pay attention say about us. They complain we don't understand them, and when I spend several posts trying to get a guy to explain his position, he instead spends it spouting off more Hollywood propaganda while his apologist friends try to claim I'm either silencing him by asking for more information or that being rude in response to rudeness is so much more important than getting on with the debate.

Apparently they don't like it when we try to get on with the debate. They want to stall by complaining about past rudeness, and when we complain about the stalling, they just keep on going. I've always suspected trolls who post for shits and giggles are much rarer than most people suspect, but I think it's time to reconsider that position.

I Wonder if She Likes Dogs

Video of awesome:


She got censored for a while, but she's back.

Since she wants us to open our mouths, this thread is hereby WILD. Comment policy is minimized.

How NOT to Convert Me to Your Religion

I've run into a lot of fundies in my day. So many have gone through the same paths that lead to the same dead ends. Recalling an extended troll roast that originated with him going off-topic, I don't feel like repeating myself as often, so I'm just going to link to this entry. I know a lot of my fellow skeptics and atheists feel much the same way, so feel free to direct your trolls here.

This list is mostly directed towards Christians, but some parts will go for just about any religion.

1. Do not threaten me with hellfire, especially not in indirect manner with artful euphemisms and efforts to dodge the fact that your deity is responsible for the invention of that purposeless torture chamber or inaction in its face. Torture is wrong. The most you could hope for in that instance is converting me to a maltheist: Someone who believes in a deity and believes he's evil. I don't respond well to threats, and the whole Hell thing sounds like a protection racket.

2. Do not bribe me with heavenly cookies to condone the evil of Hell or the evils you might ask me to perform. I like to think I'm not a very selfish person. Don't appeal to my selfishness.

3. Do not list famous people of your religion. There's no need for name dropping. List their arguments for believing. Being famous doesn't make your opinions more valid. The same goes for scientists: Great scientists are built on the evidence they collect and the accurate predictions their hypotheses make. Greatness is earned through work, so show their work.

4. Do not talk about how popular your religion is. Last time I checked, truth was not determined by democratic vote. Besides, I don't think we can currently tally any sentient aliens that might be out there in distant galaxies (and highly unlikely to be visiting us). American Idol is not a valid form of epistemology.

5. Do not tell me you were some evil atheist who went through something nasty and converted. Those stories always smack of insincerity, especially given the lack of understanding of atheism. The closest these conversion stories ever seem to get to atheism are theists who become emo maltheists when something goes wrong.

6. Don't tell me how much happier you are. Some people are happier when drunk, but that doesn't mean anything about the accuracy of their drunken thoughts. Also, the whole Hell thing tends to destroy the viability of me being happy, thinking people are being tortured forever for bad reasons.

7. Don't presume that I live some immoral, criminal life of crazy sex and that I need to reform. I'm probably blander than you are, with the possible exception of my videogame and TV selection.

8. When I ask for evidence, do not randomly label things as "supernatural," "immaterial," "metaphysical," or "transcendent" in an effort to make them allegedly beyond science. If it does stuff, it's within the realm of science. The only ways out of science are to claim it doesn't do anything or to claim it's completely and utterly random.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another Thought Many Have Had

"You've heard about some of these pet projects they really don't make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not."
-Sarah Palin.

And a quick search on Wikipedia:
"Lysenko's "revolution in agriculture" had a powerful propaganda advantage over the academics, who urged the patience and observation required for science. Lysenko was admitted into the hierarchy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and was put in charge of agricultural affairs. He used his position to denounce biologists as "fly-lovers and people haters," and to decry the "wreckers" in biology, whom he claimed were trying to purposely disable the Soviet economy and cause it to fail."

Looks Like TV Will Suck on Halloween

Just started skimming my little TV guide for marathons, since I don't have a costume or a party to wear one at. Not really a party person anyway. I'm used to Sci-Fi running Twilight Zone marathons (of the black and white variety, when they had it down right) during holidays, but they're doing Ghost Hunters, which would probably bore me to death. Cartoon Network's doing Goosebumps, which is crap, up until canceled series and pilots on Adult Swim. Fair bit of mixed woo on History. Discovery's pretty plain-looking.

Guess I'll have to find something else to do. Suggestions?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just Repeating a Thought Many of Us Have Had

Arguing about theology is a lot like arguing over Minovsky physics or how Heisenberg compensators work.

Discuss.

Doggerel #166: "Metaphysical"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

A lot of woos out there like to label their favorite ideas as "metaphysical" to put them beyond science. Most I've met use it this way to label random things as others would label things "supernatural" or "transcendent." There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason behind the labels beyond convenience for the person putting forth the argument and muddying debate for those of us who have to get the latest definition.

The best definitions of metaphysics I've seen is more along the lines of real science: Cosomology (which deals with physical objects, and where the rules for the rules come from) and genuine philosophy: ontology, and other chunks of questions dealing with "what are we talking about?" I don't get why some things like theology is included: If deities have physical effects, they're physical, and thus their existence is a scientific question, not a metaphysical one. Well, maybe it's metaphysics for theists to come up with a testable definition and predictions. Kind of pointless to debate the issue before they know what they're talking about, though.

I rarely see anything along real metaphysics with woos, however. As I said at the start of the post, they tend to just use it as a convenient buzzword, interpreting "metaphysics" as "beyond physical," so that they can claim knowledge beyond the physical, even though we use "physical" in a very broad sense when talking philosophically. Anything that has an effect on the universe is physical for the purposes of science. That includes emotions, consciousness, perception, ideas, thoughts, and so forth. If any woo claiming to have powers were right, those powers would be physical, if not yet understood.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What is Woo?

I occasionally get traffic from people asking that question, who find my previous entry, which mostly directed people elsewhere. I feel like elaborating in my own words, tonight.

Since there's a fair chance someone will click through a search with little previous experience of the term, woo, shortened from "woo-woo" is both a descriptive term for certain ideas as well as a person who holds them. A woo is someone who believes in woo. To get at the central concept, I'll define woo as the descriptive term for certain ideas.

"It is impossible to reason someone out of something that he did not reason himself into in the first place." -Jonathon Swift

That is a short description. Woo is pretty much anything a person believes without good reason. Science works in justifying knowledge with tight controls that isolate causes from confounding factors, consideration for coincidence, and intimate knowledge of all the failings us mortals can have. Woo, on the other hand, avoids all of that. I've seen a fair number of basic types of "bases" for woo:

1. Blind faith: For whatever reason, the woo has decided to believe in something knowing he has no justification for doing so. Often, it dips into "epistemological hedonism": He believes it because it makes him feel good, not because there's evidence for it. Common defense mechanisms that spring into action when these types of woos are questioned are appeals to consequences of belief (as opposed to the truth of the belief) and complaints that they can't cope with living in a world where the woo idea is wrong.

2. Ignorance of our failings: These people rely on anecdotes because they don't realize how unreliable our senses and memories can be, or various other ways how we can fool ourselves. That's one reason courts favor physical evidence over eyewitness testimony. Many of these people tend to be ignorant of statistical analysis and large numbers. Those who benefit often assume their experience is typical when it could be the result of being a lucky one. On the "alternative" "medicine" front, these people tend to think that the patient has an infallible sense of status: Feeling better one day means it works, and not that it might be the result of regression to the mean, faulty memory, being able to deal with pain, nausea, and other symptoms differently from the psychological aspects of the placebo effect. Defense mechanisms generally involve claiming special insight, pleas for us to always trust first impressions, that sloppily recorded personal experience trumps large, well documented studies, and generally assuming oneself to be incapable of being mistaken about their perceptions.

3. Deference to tradition and authorities: Trusting in what parents and authorities tell us was an important thing back in or primitive upbringing. The problem with that bit of our evolution is that it doesn't really do a good job of cleaning out bad ideas our ancestors pass on. Ideas should stand on their merits, not their age. Science tests ideas while woo is often an act of trust that those ancestors got it right somehow, through unspecified means.

There a probably more groups of fallacies that form the basis of various forms of woo, but those are three general types of woo foundations that come to mind. As for categories of stuff that falls under woo: Religion, alternative medicine, psychic powers, magic, giant conspiracy theories, alien visitation, cryptozoology, and a LOT of the "new age" stuff, which I like to pronounce to rhyme with "sewage." These things aren't woo because of any inherent nature of whatever they are. Magic, if it existed, wouldn't be any sort of opposite of science. We complain about people who claim magic exists, but don't do the footwork to test their claim.

Those who claim that something is beyond science like the "supernatural," "transcendental," or "divinity" don't understand the problem. Simply slapping a label on something doesn't change whether or not it has testable, observable effects, which is what science looks for.

What isn't woo: Emotions like love, concepts like justice and morality, abstractions like beauty and art. Love, consciousness, and those precious things that go on in our heads are physical. They cause physical effects like behavior, so they're physical. Justice, beauty, and so forth are ideas of what we find appealing. There's no scientific test for how ethical a course of action is because science doesn't ask how things ought to be, just how they are.
Those ideas have a basis in our evolution and cultures, so we can know where those preferences come from, but not whether they're objectively good.

And to close up, I'll include a link to a long rant of mine where I complain how annoying and depressing I find woos to be.

Six Random Things

Well, I got tagged with a meme from Secundum Artem's general direction.

The inviolable laws of the meme are as follows:

1. Link to the person who tagged you. (Check)
2. Post the rules on your blog. (Check)
3. Write six random things about yourself. (Coming up)
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. (Coming up)
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

So, here goes...

1. I don't know if I'm exaggerating this into synaesthesia, but I like Techno, House, and pretty much everything my brother's currently liking because they have a "texture" to them. Listened to some of the mixes he's made last night, and I could feel the waves in my forearms.

2. Never watched The Godfather.

3. When I look for videogame controllers, I look for ones with different button configurations. I'm frikkin' tired of seeing everything in the stores being a recolor.

4. I've got a 5+ year old Rubik's Cube with the purple side solved. I haven't seriously twiddled it in a while.

5. I'm on page 250 of The God Delusion. I keep getting sidetracked when it reminds me of some fundies.

6. I had to have my brother sift around my room for items 4 and 5.

People who are thus tagged:
Akusai
King of Ferrets
Tom Foss
Skeptico
Infophile, to stir him from his blog's sleep, and
And, to give him something else to post on his new blog, maybe: Andromeda's Wake.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Random Recall #4: Simpsons Hated Solar?

This weekend, I saw a solar panel and had a flashback to early episodes of the Simpsons, when they said some disparaging things about solar power. It's been a while since I watched those episodes, so I can't be sure what sort of humor they were going for. Specific examples:

Thanksgiving episode (I think) where Homer thanks God for nuclear power, "The safest, most efficient source of energy on Earth... except for solar, which is just a pipe dream."

So, what were they going for? Homer's bitter towards solar because it'll displace nuclear? Solar's so unpromising even an idiot like Homer knows it? I lean towards the former, but it's not really funny.

Monorail episode: "Hey, why don't we just cut off the power?" "We can't. It's solar powered!" "Solar. When will people learn?"

So, making fun of energy propagandists who have to strain to come up with contrived scenarios to argue against solar? At least this one caused a snerk.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Palin Gets Stupider

I know it sounds impossible, but my assessment of her went down another notch. PZ's got the details.

I may be a (hopefully intelligent) layperson when it comes to biology, but even I know that fruit flies have contributed much to our knowledge of genetics and such. Even when it's pure research, you never know what that knowledge could eventually lead you to.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Isn't This Why We're Fighting Alties?

Reverend Rob brings this article to my attention. Doctors prescribing placebos, often because the patient insists on getting something. I'm currently leaning towards this being fraud. I can understand a few times for particularly troublesome hypochondriacs, but nothing extensive. One direction I'd like to spread some of the blame is all the advertisements both alties and pharmaceutical companies (but especially alties) show to imply health requires only popping the right pills.

One minor annoyance with the article itself: Labeling the placebo effect as a "mystery."

I Like This Guy

Another YouTube guy who's looking cool: Captain Disillusion. Love with your heart, use your head for everything else.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sit! Stay! Good Blog #9

Okay, it's only got the opening post so far, but watching his videos has me wanting to plug his new place. Say hi to Andromeda's Wake.

98th Skeptics' Circle

It's up at the Uncredible Hallq's place.

Open thread as usual, but making me angry is FORBIDDEN! You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

11# !fooW

It's that time again. For those who aren't familiar with the series, ask me a question and chances are you'll get a silly answer. How about we try something other than the Ultimate Showdowns of Ultimate Destiny this time?

I Should Do Something For Halloween

Last year, I did a little something on a bad episode of Davey and Goliath. Not sure what I'm going to do this year. Any suggestions?

This is How They Roll

The way real medicine is practiced and should be practiced (reduced detail): Someone comes up with a drug/surgical procedure/whatever that looks promising as a means for treating a condition. Cell culture and animal tests follow, overseen by ethical review boards and similar institutions. Records are kept of all results, positive or negative. If the results come out positive enough, human trials can begin, which are monitored even more carefully, starting out relatively small and, when ethically possible, controlled to compare the treatment versus placebo. The subjects must be followed up on to make sure they don't develop any long-term problems. Appropriate regulatory bodies must approve of the treatment before it is allowed on the open market. Records continue to be kept afterward in case long-term problems show up so that the treatment can be pulled or restricted if necessary.

The typical altie way: Skip all that and "experiment" directly on whoever's desperate enough to pay. Record only positive outcomes. Never follow up. Make excuses and never admit responsibility for negative outcomes. Scream bloody murder if someone suggests regulation or testing. Scream especially loud if someone suggests rigorous pre-market testing.

*GRRRRR*

I stayed up a bit too late tonight, and now I'm likely to lie in bed angry for a while.

Hat tip to Andy.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Random Recall #3

This time, it's a Saturday morning cartoon from the 80's I can't remember. Sci-fi genre. Only character I remember specifically was the human lead who I think was transplanted into the alien-heavy space station high school. He wore a red varsity jacket. Had a drug aesop episode involving some skull caps or something that would zap people happy as a fantastic substitute drug. Also remember some scene involving a "tractor beam" that literally shaped into a tractor.

I think it was on ABC or NBC.

Doggerel #165: "Beyond Logic"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

As far as meaningless goes, this strikes me as a particularly meaningless phrase. I may not have taken formal logic courses in philosophy, but I'm having a hard time imagining a universe that could have anything "beyond logic" that doesn't end up being eaten up in pure chaos, if such a thing can exist. Pardon me for being inarticulate on the matter.

I tend to doubt woos really grasp what they're saying. Sometimes they say this to mean things beyond human comprehension. They always seem so sure of where exactly those limits are, hence no need to push them by asking questions. I've seen some reference infinity and the non-termination of pi, as if I should be impressed. Yeah, it was amazing to think about when I was a kid, but it was within my comprehension even back then. Also, I may not grasp "higher" maths now, but I'm not about to presume any of my shortcomings are universal to my fellow beings.

What's worse is when I bump into woos who think we're all Randroids reading from one of Spock's bad scripts. "What's so logical about loving and protecting someone?" As if selfishness was any more "logical" a motivation than love. Goals are separate from accurately figuring out the best method for achieving them. Of course, there's plenty of rational explanations for why we have those emotional goals, usually involving evolution, and neurology's been doing steady work on how our brains produce them. The data are quite noisy, and the definitions vary, but they're within the grasp of logic and science.

Another use is when woos claim that something is "beyond science." I've covered this pretty well with Doggerel #50. The only ways I can imagine something being beyond science would be if it were completely without effect (and thus pretty much irrelevant), or completely random and unpredictable. Science studies effects and makes predictions based on the observation of those effects.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Her Name is Jenny, and She Must Be Stopped

Important site to plug: Stop Jenny McCarthy. Hope that bumps its ranking up slightly.

Random Recall #2

Less movie geek, more fundie stuff: Earlier today, I remembered a news story several years back about a Jewish kid who was forbidden to feed his little keychain virtual pet thing on the Sabbath, so it'd die every week.

A Big Fat Red Herring

Nice post from Akusai about the "Christian Nation" thing.

I generally don't go into that much detail, but I tend to get irritated when fundies use it to justify civil rights abuses, seeming to clear their conscience by assuring themselves what they want done is legal, never mind all this ethics stuff us mere mortals are concerned about.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's Out

The Mother 3 Fan Translation project has released its first version. Get it because Chuck Norris is no match for The Flint.

If you'll pardon me, I've got some evil electric guitars to crush.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

I finished reading Watchmen today. It doth be cool. Discuss.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This Rant is Just a Bunch of Ones and Zeroes

Managed to get myself irritated remembering some typical woo arguments. IDiots say those of us who believe what the evidence tells us about evolution don't care about humans because they're "just animals." Vitalists, fans of psychic woo, yadda yadda say we don't care about people because we're just electrochemical reactions. This makes no sense to me.

A rose is a plant. It still smells sweet. Van Gogh's Starry Night is a bunch of pigments. It's still beautiful. Love is a bunch of unpronounceable chemicals. It still makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Okami is a bunch of ones and zeroes on a plastic disk. It's an awesome game. I'm a bunch of copper and tin (4.6%) in a canine shape. I like to think I'm a decent guy who deserves the same rights as other sentient beings.

Just because you can look at something from the bottom up doesn't mean it ceases to have the values we assign to it from the top down. About all it can do is point out that we don't have a complete description. Or that we'll have to be long-winded in describing it accurately. I don't see a problem with that.

About the only time I find knowing more about something to detract from it is in fiction. Boba Fett isn't as cool as he used to be. With reality, I usually find the explanations for the world to be more elegant, amazing, or beautiful than my imagination. I'd be dissatisfied if reality was as impenetrable as woos claim.

Doggerel #164: "Insensitive"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Some poets may go on about how truth is beauty and vice-versa, but unfortunately, the truth can be quite nasty. There's no getting around that. Knowing there's a problem, however, is the first step to solving it. Looking for real solutions instead of relying on false ones is the way to go. And we get called "insensitive" and such for believing that.

There's no evidence for psychic powers. There's no magic panacea for everything that ails you. The evidence for your favorite stone idol is no better than the evidence for any other. Woo doesn't work. That's just how things are. Don't shoot the messenger when he's trying to get you to calm down and do something productive.

Yes, it's sad grandma died. I know the feeling. It'd be nice to know she's hanging out somewhere, enjoying herself, but we don't know. Nothing wrong with hoping, but don't substitute hope for certainty. Don't rush to waste time and money on a church that can't prove anything about the matter, and often seems genuinely opposed to inquiry. Do what you can to keep her memory alive even if she isn't. The church certainly didn't help me on that front.

Yes, it's bad that you or someone you love has some nasty medical condition. Calling natural periodic improvements "evidence" for the efficacy of the latest woo supplement/untested herb/needle poke isn't going to provide a real cure, treatment, or whatever.

It's nice you had an emotionally moving dream, but that doesn't make it magical or something other than what's in your head.

Paving the way for real hope usually requires dispelling false hope. Appreciating something for what it really is often requires stripping it of false associations. Skeptics like me can do that and still find beauty and hope in truth. Just because we're telling you you're wrong, don't think for an instant that we're telling you to despair.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Doggerel #163: "Science Has Limits!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Woos love to talk about alleged blindspots of the scientific method. Many of them are fabrications on their part: Artificially labeling something with the meaningless word "supernatural," the five senses, abstract concepts, or just because they say so.

Of course, you end up with lots of woos making appeals to other ways of knowing based on the inevitable barriers to omniscience laid out by people like Godel: Any system will be either inconsistent or incomplete. Of course, this doesn't help them in the least. Just because science won't reveal every fact in the universe and unify them with explanations and predictions doesn't mean faith is any less arrogant or more useful.

One metaphor I find appropriate is a description of the typical Creationist tactic: The homeless man throwing stones at evolution's incomplete mansion. Woos of any stripe who make these sorts of appeals are doing just that: They're trying to tear down something incomplete but full of successes that keep coming while providing nothing constructive. I have yet to see anything useful or meaningful come from woo.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pointless Fun: Dawn of Souls

Well, it's been a while since I've had a Pointless Fun post. And it's gone retro and remake-y.

Mega Man 9: Done in the classic 8-bit style. Saw it in the Playstation Store and bought it before I realized it also game out for Wii and Xbox, so I'm stuck running my hot PS3 to play a game that looks right at home on the NES, down to dangling ends of sentences in story scenes. Quite excellent, and it feels like they've really taken off the kid gloves. Well, at least until you've got it memorized.

As mentioned in another post, Cave Story is coming to Wii. This is awesome sauce.

The Mother 3 Fan Translation is in the final stages: Testing. I can't wait for it to be finished. They've put a lot of work into it.

41st Reality: Fun-looking shmup. I haven't gotten far in it, yet.

Tumble Drop: Short but fun puzzle game.

Onto YouTube stuff:

Shigeru Miyamoto makes things awkward:


Remakes into movies counts, right?


Zelda meets Spore:

Pointless Question #35

So, you've got evil mind control powers. Why can't you get your victims to, you know, act quasi-normal while under your control instead of speaking like zombies? And what's up with their eyes?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

97th Skeptics' Circle

It's up at Evolved and Rational.

Open thread as usual, but poetry about your love of Mudkips is FORBIDDEN!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Virus Worked?

It seems something from XKCD came true, almost: Noticed there's now an audio preview option for YouTube comments. I hope that lowers the stupid, but I doubt it.

What Star Trek Means to Me

During my days of watching YouTube debunkings and such, found one that included a clip of Hovind (I think) spouting the straw man about evolution being inherently progressive and how it'd all elevate us to deities who could fly around the universe meeting other intelligent life, "Just like in Star Trek." Something tells me Hovind listens to trekkies about as often as he does biologists: Roughly never.

Star Trek is very light on the science. Most fellow Star Trek fans I know don't bank on FTL travel being possible. Those who do doubt it would be convenient, usually because hypothetical methods would involve the power output of at least a few suns. Star Trek is a fantasy franchise set in the future instead of a medieval Europe-y place.

I signed on during The Next Generation, so that's primarily what I think of when someone mentions Star Trek. I don't see it as an accurate prediction of how things will go. I see it as something to hope for: Humanism will take off, the shackles of superstition will be broken, science will save the day, and all sentient beings will be treated with dignity, whether they're animal, vegetable, or mineral. It's idealistic escapism for people like me.

As for the "becoming gods" thing: Many, many episodes dealt with the Enterprise crew being powerful and resisting the temptation to just bully the local undeveloped planet into cooperating or forcing cultural change. Many episodes (most noticeably to me in the original series) had the crew helpless in the face of the week's sufficiently advanced alien and having to rely on guile. Of course, though, one minor point of annoyance is the lack of transhumanism. But the sheer amount of power is usually irrelevant to the story. I imagine it'd be easy to rewrite a lot of episodes with the Enterprise being a seagoing ship and replacing "planets" with "islands" and so forth. Having spaceships flinging glowing balls and beams at each other does tend to set a different visual tone, though. Anyway, I don't take the different levels of power to be a prediction: It's analogical for different moral dilemmas. I highly doubt we'll ever cram suns worth of energy in convenient packages. Besides, you could argue we're what primitive people would call "gods." That's more an argument for the lack of imagination that comes with ignorance.

In our current world, where woo reigns in politics, people like me need morale boosters like Star Trek. If we can imagine something like that show, maybe, just maybe we'll be able to achieve something like that. But then I bump into Creationists who claim ice is magnetic, and my cynicism returns.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Southern Medicine

Many of you crazy skeptics insist on having only one set of "scientific" standards for medicine. I say that medicine that originates from bronze age traditions below the equator aren't subject to those standards! You have to perform experiments that leave in bias! You see, Southern medicine is built on an entirely different philosophy that your allopathy! You can't test it with arbitrary Northern standards like "Do more patients get better from it than placebo?" Instead, you have to focus on how it makes the patient feel. And not on a pain, symptom, or not-living level. How it makes them feel spiritually. So, you can stay in your box of logic and experimental results, I'm going to believe what I want, no matter what you say.

Just in case it's not astoundingly obvious, since woos get very crazy out there, I'm making fun of the whole "Eastern versus Western" altie argument.

Monday, October 06, 2008

YouTubin': Collecting

Just making a post where you can dump suggested links to particular bits of crazies I could lampoon when I get around to YouTube. I could also use some good advice on how to compose, software suggestions, etcetera. Want to make sure I break into the Vlog thing properly.

This is Awesome Sauce

Cave Story is coming to Wii.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Discuss: Scientology Vs. Anonymous

It's been a long time since I've posted anything on Scientology. I'm not all that up to date on the whole Anonymous thing, either. So, here's Thunderf00t's YouTube entry on the topic. Sounds a bit fun. Rubs some of my propaganda sensors the wrong way, but the core stuff being talked about is probably quite accurate:

Friday, October 03, 2008

YouTubin'

I'm thinking of following in some other people's footsteps, making some YouTube videos. Any suggestions to make? Software? Microphones?

I'm thinking of doing a series based on TV Tropes's "You Fail Biology Forever," dealing with the misconceptions involved.

Pointless Question #34

Earlier today, I was on the highway, driving at 60 mph when someone pulled out of a parking lot for a left turn. Almost seeming to wait for me to get in range. Brake slam and horn later, I finally formed a verbal expression: "GEEZE!!!"

What's wrong with me?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pointless Question #33

You know when one of the main characters leaves their station on the Enterprise's bridge to deal with the Negative Space Wedgie of the week, there's always some no-name ensign to immediately take their place... Where do they come from?

The Following Entities are Made of Awesome

Andromeda's Wake
AronRa
cdk007
DonExodus2
potholer54
Thunderf00t

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Fundie Mentality

I've been watching a fair bit of YouTube videos by fellow atheists and skeptics, lately. They've had to deal with a lot of nutbars over there, some of whom try to censor them. One nutbar in particular named VenomFangX knowingly perjured himself making a false DMCA notice and tried to pass the blame onto his friends when he got caught. When Thunderf00t suggested a compromise (since he felt the legal angles were too harsh, and he wanted more VFX videos to lampoon), VFX accused him of performing blackmail. While dressed up as The Dark Knight's rendition of The Joker. How appropriate. Some people just want to watch the world burn.

Anyway, that gets me to the topic of the moment: How I intuit fundie thought. Now, there's a difference between being a fundie and simply very religious. I've met religious people who are good and decent, who do the right thing because it's the right thing, and believe in a similar deity: One who believes in fairness and justice. Now, I might think they're silly, like someone who believes in Santa Claus into adulthood, but they're still decent people.

Being a fundie requires a certain malice. Take for instance, my favorite recently unbanned troll, during his golden days when we went by the alias of "Weapon of Mass Instruction":

[Infophile:] "So, if someone convinced you the Bible weren't true, you'd abandon your morals and go on a murderous rampage? ...Excuse me if I've lost the urge to argue with you; I suddenly don't want to win.

WoMI: Actually, I would answer yes. The Bible would not be the best selling book for all these years because (as you would like to think) people are stupid.

I have yet to see "The Origen of Species" on the best seller.

[Bolding mine]

This sort of declaration confirms that some fundies have an inherently criminal, malicious mindset. Are these fundies any more moral than someone who goes looting if the police go on strike or end up distracted by bigger crises? No. They're just more paranoid. They've just bought a story about a super cop who never blinks, sees through walls, and so on. They don't think, "Is this the right thing to do?" They think, "Am I going to get caught doing/not doing this?"

People who think that way are dangerous. The people I care to know ask if something's right. Who will it help? Who will it hurt? Does it set any dangerous precedents? Those are the sorts of questions that crop up with any moral dilemma. That's why moral people spend their time arguing about those sorts of things when it comes to sticky issues.

Many fundies would rather simplify that process by just going by what an imaginary bully says: "Do this, or I'll torture you for eternity!" This is what's commonly known as "might makes right." Oh, such a noble sentiment, isn't it? Of course, I prefer to think of one of the key features of real morality is that it protects the weak, not simply appease the strong. Contrary to Creationist characatures of evolution, "survival of the fittest" doesn't mean survival of the strongest: We're social animals. Our "strength" is cooperation. We protect each other. We work towards common goals. What these sorts of fundies propose is selfish cowardice: Do what benefits you personally: Avoid getting beat up by the bully, no matter how many people you hurt in the process.

Still other fundies say morality isn't based on love, empathy, justice, or fairness: It's based on the arbitrary whims of a deity who was randomly given the "authority" to determine morality. This is known as the Divine Command Theory of ethics. If their god makes morality by declaration, there's no moral basis for those declarations. Behold the god of craps tables and the roulette wheel. If he declared murder to be good, it would be good. Of course, those who don't really subscribe to DCT will say their deity would never make such a declaration. If that's the case, they believe in a basis for morality independent of their deity and stand a better chance of earning respect.

I've also encountered other fundies who believe morality is an irrelevant mortal pasttime: All that matters is if you believe in their stone idol. You won't be held accountable for your good and bad works because all you have to do is clap your hands together and have a conversation with their imaginary friend. No need to atone. No need to take any responsibility. Any barbarian can be excused for any wrongdoing by saying he's imperfect. Any time we call them on their obviously evil actions, we get called things like "PC police" as if people getting hurt is a matter of us being "offended." Whatever standards they have, they never have to live up to them themselves. They think they're free to run amok and the only barrier to their doing so is the rule of law, which they constantly rail against.

The decent non-fundie religious people I know generally believe in a god who happens to be a Humanist.