Friday, August 31, 2007

Funny Searches: August 2008

I started this on the 20th. That's when the first vaguely funny search showed up for this month. Let's hope weird stuff starts coming in more regularly.

The vibrations of autism: Insert joke here.

bigfoot is in fact in the game says rockstar games: Schala liiiiives!

videos of people pooping there selves: Should I be worried that my inner Grammar Nazi is more disgusted than my general squick about copraphilia?

how to make people like you using supernatural abilities: Charm Person, Innate Spell feat (with a lot of prerequisites) to turn it into a spell-like ability, and I think there was one "Supernatural Transformation" feat or similar that could turn a spell-like ability into a supernatural one, thus no longer provoking attacks of opportunity.

The God That Saves Whenever Prayed To: Off the top of my head, the Dragon God from Breath of Fire 2 does that. Be sure to do it regularly. Don't want to get creamed by some boss only to end up repeating four or five dungeons or whatever.

Of Berserkers and Vacations

No, I'm not going on a vacation, so don't worry too much about a shortage of new Doggerel entries. I've just been wondering about some of the larger cycles of skeptical bloggers out there.

I've heard of bloggers who just get so angry, they can't deal with the daily stupidity of trolls and quit. Some of you may have taken a break from blogging. I get really foamy for a few comments and post a !fooW entry to cool down, thinking of humorous answers to various questions. I suspect I could sustain a rage for a while, inspiring many, many strongly worded posts about how vile, depressing, etcetera, all the woos I encounter are, but I'd rather not risk getting too angry for too long. Hence, I do the cool down phase with humor.

So, what do you do, and why?

Blatant IDiocy

You may have seen this at Denialism and Skeptico already, but I'll chime in anyway. An IDiot says:
In any debate on Intelligent Design, there is a question I have long wished to see posed to ID opponents: "If we DID discover some biological feature that was irreducibly complex, to your satisfication and to the satisfaction of all reasonable observers, would that justify the design inference?" (Of course, I believe we have found thousands of such features, but never mind that.)

If the answer is yes, we just haven't found any such thing yet, then all the constantly-repeated philosophical arguments that "ID is not science" immediately fall. If the answer is no, then at least the lay observer will be able to understand what is going on here, that Darwinism is not grounded on empirical evidence but a philosophy.

So, tell me, why exactly would we infer design from an IC feature? That's a question the IDiots avoid with evasions like this. There's nothing linking "This feature is IC" to "This feature was designed." We've been pointing that out for a long time, now.

In response, they typically begin a new evasion: "Well, if it's IC, evolution couldn't do it!" This is an outright lie mixed in with another non-sequitur. First, there's nothing stopping evolution from creating IC features. Evolution has a lot of tricks up its sleeves. The lie comes in when the IDiots claim that evolution can't subtract parts that become unnecessary, only add. This, of course, is the opposite of another IDiot lie: That evolution can only subtract, not add. Second, even if evolution can't explain another feature, why would ID be a better answer? It's kind of like the people who concluded early on that wind couldn't cause crop circles, therefore super-advanced aliens from outer space must have done them using Arthur C. Clark technology. Of course, it turns out that humans made them with simple geometry and simpler technology. Just because one hypothesis gets ruled out doesn't mean we say "a magic man done it." There are always more possibilities than squishy human brains initially come up with. It's hubris to think that humans know all the possibilities and can just pick one from the process of elimination. Of course, since evolution still hasn't been eliminated by the amateurish efforts of Behe and the like, it's kind of moot.

So, to get to a key point that IDiots always run away from: Why would we make a design inference from X?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

68th Skeptics' Circle

It's up at Aardvarchaeology.

Open thread as usual, but sticking your long, long tongue at me is FORBIDDEN!

Doggerel #120: "Troll"

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

Whenever there's any argument, anywhere on the internet, "troll" will almost inevitably come up. It's a bit of slang, so there's no precise definition, but there is a fair bit of agreement on some points:

1. Merely having a certain opinion does not make someone a troll. About the only arguable exceptions are things like Holocaust deniers, flat Earthers and the like.

2. Resorting to flooding, spam, ALL CAPS ON EVERYTHING, excessive exclamation marks, blanket cursing and so on mark a person as a troll very quickly. Wetspot resorted to copy/pasting "DUMBASS" so many times in his comments that my Firefox browser was concerned that it was a looping script. Unambiguously trollish.

3. Repeating a lie over and over and over again, or "correcting" himself in one thread and repeating the lie in another, hoping no one notices. This is especially prevalent in Creationists parroting straw men that no one subscribes to, assigning those straw men to scientists, and when ruthlessly corrected, they do just the above.

4. People who keep changing the subject in a desperate attempt to put the people in the thread on trial, and not their arguments. This is one of the leading causes of doggerel. This goes double for people who try to "frame" comments on the stupidity of a fallacy they commit as a personal attack.

Simply being passionate about having a dissenting opinion isn't trollish. What separates a troll from a legitimate dissenter is the methods they employ. It's just like woos and skeptics, cranks and scientists: Methods are what matters.

If I Ruled the Networks...

Just having a bit of a "if I ruled the world" moment right now. I'll list a few examples of bad or mediocre shows, and some small details I think would have helped them out. Maybe not turn it around, but it would have been nice. Whatever. Follow up with your own examples in the comments. Please, no "I'd never make the show" things unless you're talking about The Matrix sequels.

Star Trek: Voyager: Slowly kill the pristine nature of the ship. Without Starfleet repair docks, the crew should have made finicky replacements from Delta Quadrant spare parts. Have them restock some of the crew with curious/adventurous locals. Not just Neelix and Kes. Having a holographic doctor may be spiffy, but you'd think they'd at least supplement him with an alien doctor or two who'd study up on Alpha Quadrant physiology to eventually replace him. Not Tom Paris.

The Big O, Season 2: Kill all the bright colors. Kill the Gainax Ending. Dump Big O's transforming arm cannons. It won my heart with clumsy, oversized fisticuffs. Not exactly a small change on the ending, but pleh.

A number of Gundam series: Dump the super-prototype angle. Give the heroes standard mechs with some customization, or at least new models that only have marginally better combat capability compared to the local Zaku. I know the toymakers like to have a half dozen or so flashy, spikey new models to make with each new incarnation, but come on. If you must insist on several new models, have them each fill different combat roles (but be wary of making an Aquaman), rather than just being bigger and badder than everything else. What should matter is skill, teamwork, and planning.

That's all for the time being. Feel free to list your own suggestions for series that could use touch-ups like that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Doggerel #119: "You're Not Helping!"

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

A lot of the time, when we're busy shooting down some altie's favorite cancer quackery, or platitudes of some psychic who claims to hunt down missing people, they'll complain that we're "not helping."

First, this is a subject change: The issue is usually whether the woo is helping. It never seems to be. Much of the time, woo is even harmful. Even if the only thing the skeptic does is criticism and physical inaction, he's helping by staying out of the expert's way, and not wasting resources. Chances are, he can prevent the loss of a very important resource by taking useless woo out of consideration: Time. By encouraging people to sit still for a moment and carefully consider the course of action, rather than rushing back and forth between mountains of improbable "cures," the skeptic may very well aid in finding the best course of action.

And all that's before you consider that the skeptic might actually be on the front lines of relevant scientific research. I may be a relative armchair skeptic compared to a number of dedicated scientists out there, but what I do isn't fundamentally different than what they do. It's just a difference of degree. I can at least donate some of my income to the real scientists who are working on real solutions using the scientific method. If someone isn't doing science, and just randomly experimenting on paying customers without detailed records, that money is wasted.

Additionally, skeptics are typically thinking ahead: We need educational reform. We need to get more people to think skeptically and scientifically. Civilization has had a long, nasty history of superstition, fallacies, and propaganda. Skepticism is the best defense we have against those things. If we can get the typical person to think in terms of the scientific method, rather than parroting whatever slogans come from his favorite mass media, we'll produce more scientists who will have the necessary mentality to solve problems.

Is My Brother Going to Be a Movie Star Like PZ?

Just though I'd mention that someone's apparently interested in getting permission to use his Blasphemy Challenge video.

Monday, August 27, 2007

6# !fooW

Regulars know what this means: I got irritated with some woo, and I need to cool down.

For the non-regulars: Ask me a question, and chances are you'll get a silly answer. If you don't know what to ask, try coming up a question that involves ninjas, pirates, robots, or monkeys.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Does God Play With Dice in the Universe?

Well, thought it was time to bring back an old thing I had a while back. It's been about a year. But I should probably update it, since the Randi challenge has gotten more specific in who they'll accept, so that they don't have to feel compelled to test every obscure loon. Just the ones with media coverage.

So anyway, I've got a brick of 36 dice, and I'll use them to test the existence of the deity for up to six people who apply. Requirements for entry: Your deity or deities must be willing and able to manipulate a massive dice roll in an effort to convince me of their existence.

Each entrant picks out a number 1 through 6 for their deity. If, for example, Zeus gets picked for the number 2, and all the dice come up 2s in two sequential rolls, I'll believe in Zeus. The six entrants will be pitting their deities against each other, and against my atheism.

Here's the catch, and probably the real test of your faith: Everyone has to abide by the results: If the dice don't come up with the same number, you have to accept that A) none of the six deities exist, B) they don't care about converting me, or C) they don't have the power to control dice.

So, any takers? Legitimate criticism of the challenge?

Pointless Question #8

You've got to keep the villain from finding the MacGuffin of Infinite Nastiness in the Pit of Really Bad Things. So, what were you thinking disabling the traps as you go and fetch it? You know he's waiting for you at the entrance, right?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Twoofer Rules

Whenever I debate twoofers, I notice that they seem to work under a fair number of implicit rules. A lot of them are like standard woo, but it seems to stick out a lot more when I read them.

1. Ad hominem is the basis of all reality: Broadest form of pretty much all these other rules: Who you are makes your argument valid, not the internal logic or physical evidence.

2. Evil = Power: Because Bush is evil enough to do something, there's no need to prove that the laws of physics would allow him to do that something. No need to worry about the administrative nightmare of managing thousands of rogue ninja demolition crews, either.

3. Anonnies and people with pseudonyms are automatically wrong because they might possibly have something vaguely resembling a government connection. Therefore, if a conspiracy skeptic posting under a blog name, rather than his real name, says the sky is blue, then obviously it must not be. Exception: Twoofers who use fake names, after all, they're the only people who have something honest to protect, and they're the only people on the entire surface of the Earth who don't want death threats sent to their snail mail address or
government suppression squads at their front door or office.

4. Using your real name = Infinity Plus One times your normal credibility. Being ridiculed by snail mail or physical presence when someone figures out where you live boosts your credibility level far more than email or forum ridicule because Galileo didn't have an email address.

5. People who are standing up against The Man are automatically right. Outspoken liberal skeptics who berate government officials for trampling on science, trying to get Intelligent Design in schools, employing various ineffective or even counterproductive "War on [Concept]" measures, destroy civil rights, engage in historical revisionism, or whatever aren't doing enough: They have to sit on their rears talking/posting about being certain of the government using Orbital R-9 Wave Cannons in order to count as being opposed to the administration. Anything less, and they're exactly as loyal as any Bush crony, and thus automatically wrong.

6. If it doesn't sound like a TV/movie plot, it's not realistic. There's ALWAYS a frame-up, an "unexpected" plot twist, or whatever. If the evidence is rock solid, that just means the guy doing the framing/set up/whatever is more elaborate about the level of evidence he plants.

Feel free to extend the list in the comments.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Want to See Me in Meatspace?

Here's your chance: I'm thinking of going to this rally in Austin. There any official dress code for people holding picket signs or anything? I'm new at meatspace protests and such.

So, Where Are the Bonkers and the Flying Glove?

Just felt like spreading the word about a rather nasty individual.

Censorship like this really sticks in my craw. If you're reading this from Turkey, supposedly this will help you get around the Wordpress block..

One of the surest signs of dishonesty is a desire to censor your critics for the simple reason that they criticize you. You won't catch me doing that.

I don't know a whole lot about Turkey, and this morning I was hearing something about the secular part losing ground, so a link to a summary of the situation would be appreciated.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

No Anonnies For a While

I've temporarily disallowed anonymous comments, so you'll need a blogger account to comment for the time being. Some spammers are putting their questionable pharma sites in their "other" name, possibly hoping I won't notice and the insincere "Great article!" comment won't catch my attention. I've also turned on word verification.

Note for the handful of people who occasionally buy this stuff and make them enough money to justify the small amount of time they use putting up free advertising and wasting a disproportionate amount of my time: The stuff often isn't quality, and sometimes even unrelated to what they label it as. In the case of herbal stuff, it's a crapshoot: It's not uncommon for herbs to lack the active ingredient they were supposed to be grown for. They're environmentally unfriendly most of the time, as many are overharvested from the wild, rather than farmed. They're also commonly immune to most regulations, and can contain heavy metals.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pointless Question #7

You've traveled thousands of light years to a distant, watery planet third in orbit around an unremarkable yellow star. You've got a faster-than-light spaceship powered by a few dozen suns in its belly. You've got weapons that can stun, kill, or vaporize the vermin occupying the planet. You've got a teleportation system that can take you apart and put you back together thousands of miles away.

Why are you nekkid?

Skeptics' Circle #67: Giant Robot Edition

Welcome to the 67th meeting of the Skeptics' Circle. Each of you should have a PADD in front of you on the table. Be sure to pay attention, because you'll need to know who you'll be teamed up with, as well as their capabilities. Chances are you'll be going into combat together so good teamwork is a must.

Why combat, you ask? Because, believe it or not, woos have managed to weaponize fallacies. Bad arguments are now very physical and woos can pump anyone full of them. It won't cause direct physical damage, but the resulting foolishness can be very harmful. Thankfully, I've been secretly working on a way to weaponize good logic, and I've had a breakthrough. It involves one of the few things cooler than ninjas, pirates, and pirate ninjas: Giant robots.

Team #1: Altie Resistance Squad

Alties ruled over medicine before the rigorous scientific method was brought to the field. They've tried reclaiming their former glory by appealing to tradition, religion, and so forth. In the past, they've resorted to attacking the FDA, the large pharmaceutical companies, the Illuminati, and any organization, real or imaginary, that apparently stood in their way. Now they're resorting to physical attacks with giant robots. They may not take the time and care to fire well-aimed shots, but they've often got a screaming passion and lots of repeating fallacy firearms.

This is the team I've formed to combat this menace.

First up is Orac of Respectful Insolence, whose machine I've designed to take into account his particular talents. This unit has had its cockpit modified to accept an artificial intelligence as its pilot, and thus be able to deal with issues impersonally. Anyway, given Orac's advanced AI and the fine motor precision of this unit, its laser blades can strike an opponent with surgical precision. He's not afraid to get his feet wet.

Serving as the rear artillery in this unit is Dean Moyer whose mech I've equipped with powerful aft cannons. He'll be serving as the backbone of this unit, willing and able to take down incoming specious arguments, aided by a system that carefully monitors his endorphin levels to measure their benefit in combat. This allows his comrades to pile red hot data onto their opponents.

Freshly assigned to the team is my brother, who's shown some potential in a mission in which he was paid by the fashion industry, food barons, Big Pharma, and pop-up blockers to shoot down WoolongTM Tea. He's new to the field, but armed with this mech's baloney-detecting radar and his natural instincts, he can be of benefit to nearly any team.

Serving as the team's scout will be kiembe, whose long-range mech is powered by good old fashioned nuclear physics, not chi. He knows that gravity won't help him move easily, so his machine has been equipped with powerful boosters and a durable generator. Nothing too fanciful.

This machine is equipped with a pair of fast-firing rifles that allow Christian Bachmann to drill into his opponent's logical fallacies in regards to vaccines. He's a little embarrassed to rely on the thick armor of a heavyweight, but he's learning to deal with it.

New to the Skeptics' Circle is PalMD, who will be spending this mission as the team's rear guard. Emphasizing turning speed, this unit can instantly respond to incoming threats head-on.

Team #2: Counter-Intelligence (Design) Platoon

Once upon a time, there were "Scientific" Creationists who tried to use quantum mechanics to explain how so many animals could fit on a boat and such. But that was too overtly religious to get into schools, so they watered everything down until we got "Intelligent Design," which tried to prove everything was designed because designed things look designed. Or something. They're usually hazy on the details. Anyway, our intelligence tells us that they're working on a massive cannon designed to unconstitutionally fire "revised" textbooks into public schools. We need to take it out before it's operational. Naturally, this weapon is protected by giant robots.

Using the latest evolutionary algorithms, these machines have been optimized to strike at the heart of this organization.

Wherever Intelligent Design shows up, you just know Michael Behe and his allegedly intelligently designed robot are going to be there. Blake Stacey knows all his evasive maneuvers and so has been given a mech able to keep up with him and always appropriate weapon for each circumstance.

One of the real heavyweights of this counter-ID team is PZ Myers, whose multi-appendaged machine is more than able to shoot down multiple incoming Creationist claims at once. Or multiple Creationists making the same stupid claim.

Always with his head in the clouds and his eyes toward the stars, Phil Plait, AKA the Bad Astronomer, has this special aerial sniper model that will allow him to rain DOOM from low orbit onto McLeroy's textbook cannon.

Ron Britton, known for his service in the Battle of the Bay of the Fundie, has an insectine machine with compound eyes able to readily distinguish real science from Creation "science" and take the latter out quickly.

Evil Bender has had his AI uploaded into a significantly larger frame, including a variety of scanners to instantly detect the underground quote mines used by Creationists to fill their "revised" textbooks.

Team #3: Team Heresy

There was once a time when any crazy idea for explaining the universe seemed plausible. Without the scientific method, they were all on equal terms, and equally deserving of ridicule. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people whose brains are stuck in that era and gasp in horror when we engage in that ridicule. Thankfully they haven't brought back burning at the stake... yet. But in case they do, we'll have a team ready for them.

Assigned at point for once using his PA rectifier to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow of an incoming Pascal's Wager and returning it to the enemy combatants. He wrote his report on the clever action with a nice bit of literary flourish.

Attacking prayer with cutting sarcasm (in the form of an arm-mounted laser sword) is Barry Leiba of Staring at Empty Pages.

Equipped with dual machine guns and clips full of pointed-out Bible contradictions, Mike O'Risal is rumored to have reduced Jesus into a greasy spot on some garage floor. Supposedly, Jesus got back up, which, considered with contradictions in the story, leads the whole incident into question. But thankfully, the rest of his record speaks for itself.

The Reserves:

The most important thing with being a skeptic is eternal vigilance. You never know where a new problem can occur or what direction it'll take. That's why we maintain a number of operatives who can be on call at a moment's notice to deal with unexpected skeptical issues.

Mark Hoofnagle of Denialism has taken on woos who have been busy attacking our food supply. For those worried about that microwave rifle he's carrying, no, it didn't nuke the nutrients in our supplies.

Previously deployed in Africa, Dr. Vitelli knows a thing or two about mass hysteria and has an equally massive mech to calm things down. Before you ask, no, his mech isn't compensating for anything.

Recently, Shalini's mech has been slightly retooled with a magnetic repulsion gun to combat Secretards trying to pull people into their moneymaking scheme with the Law of Attraction.

Thursday came across a rather strange combination: Someone apparently hobbled together some bits of Astrology with a chain email and assaulted his inbox. The assailant was quickly and mercilessly dealt with.

Xenophile's gotten himself quite the record with his current mech, winning a number of duels. Due to clerical errors, however, we're not terribly sure how many of them were fought against AIs in a simulator.

Internal Operations & Home Base Defense:

Skeptico's generalized mech is equipped with a variety of situations in mind. He's known for his critical eye, and knows that just because you agree with a report's conclusions doesn't mean you can give it a good review.

With a light, mobile, and almost unarmored mech, An Anonymous Coward doesn't quite live up to his name. His machine has been equipped with a large variety of weapons to allow for a multitude of defensive tactics so he can decide upon the one with the most evidence for effectiveness under existing circumstances. He knows what it truly means to have an open mind.

Alright, that should cover everything for the initial briefing. You'll be receiving further mission orders via black helicopter. Once you've completed your assignments, rendevous at Aardvarkology for the 68th meeting on August 30th. Some of you should ready your base for hosting further meetings. Dismissed.

Disclaimers and notes:
1. You can get your Next AC schematic, emblem, decals, and so forth from me if you've got a PS3 and Armored Core 4. I make no guarantees about combat quality.
2. You think I'm advocating violence? With giant, impractical, energy inefficient, undeniably cool fighting machines armed with pure logic? You're silly.
3. My options for taking screen shots lowered considerably at the last minute. I can try to give you better quality images if you like.
4. Some of the emblems look weird because AC4 has only a certain number of shapes available. I think they're trying to prevent people from slapping excessively dirty pictures on their ACs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pointless Question #6

There's a meteor headed for Earth. A really big one. A really, REALLY big one. Scientists have been working on several practical plans for this sort of thing for years, devising things like attachable solar sails, nuclear nudge, rock-spitting drills, and so on. None of these involve humans leaving the ground.

So, why does the president get on the air and announce that he's sending up a team of humans with drilling equipment, lasers, and nuclear weaponry to blow the thing up?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Some of You Just Got Lucky

My gmail spam just got up 100 entries, so it was my usual time to clean out. Luckily for two entrants, I noticed one of their entries before clicking the "kill 'em all!" button. This adds a bit more work for me to get a special something for everyone, but I'll buckle down tomorrow night. You've still got an hour and a half since I posted this, so don't be shy!

Doggerel #118: "Helping"

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, when they're not trying to disguise the harm they do, will typically claim that they're helping, in vague, unverifiable ways.

Let's get the first one out of the way: Emotional help. Often, psychics will claim that they're helping the families of missing people by giving them hope. Alties will claim that they're handing out hope for an incurable condition. Religious types will claim they're handing out hope of the afterlife. The problem with this is that false hope can be very damaging. It can incur feelings of betrayal when things make a turn for the worst. It can lead people to deny an existing problem or promote inaction when steps should be taken towards a better outcome. Denial and false hope are not good for a person. People are entitled to know the truth. Emotional help is about helping people to face the truth, and a free shoulder to cry on will do far more than an expensive session with a psychic or quack.

Making decisions: This is the area where things are most demonstrable and measurable. So that means quacks have to work harder to obfuscate. Psychics will pick out any tiny detail that happens to match, whether or not the rest of their prediction was right. Alties will claim that worsening symptoms are a sign that the patient's body is 'rejecting toxins' or whatever, in order to convince them to keep believing and/or paying. Those who spout about the efficacy of prayer will claim that the answer is "no" or "not yet", buying time and encouraging further inaction.

What seems the most baffling thing about this defense is that their 'help' is what's typically under dispute: Instead of just whining that they're helping and we should just shut up, try actually showing us evidence that they're helping.

Pointless Fun '80s

Well, it's time for Pointless Fun to get into fine polished veneer of the '80.

The '80s wouldn't be complete without an excess of ninjas.

You know, when I open a new jar of jelly, I don't so much as spread it as I put slices on the bread. Now I gotta undo that.

A little before the '80s: Asteroids, upgraded a little bit.

Know what I'm feeling nostalgia for? Miniature golf.

Remember that Satanic cult we all joined? Good times.

You know, I have a feeling that they're going to remake everything from that time in a crappy way:

Remember Kid Icarus?

Nintendo meets Goldberg:

Thursday, August 09, 2007

It Hurts When I Laugh

I've bumped into a fair bit of weird stuff on my primary blogs. This is stuff so weird it hurts, and yet hilarious that it occurs. So here's a link dump, largely Pharyngula stuff that caught my attention:

Apparently God needs some copyright lawyers.

My brother sent me something before PZ got some brain damage from reading it. It's filled with so many painful howlers it's just hard to know where to get started.

BlogWarBot: Just in case the troll population runs low, I can keep in practice against a different unthinking, evasive entity.

It's always our fault: Woman claims that our debunking of religion leads people into newage stuff, which we also oppose. Funny, it was amoral "torture is okay" fanatics that led me away from organized religion. One of them ending up a Sunday School teacher was the last straw and marked the last time I went to church. It was all the skeptics like Randi that she rails against that led me to rejecting all the newage crap along with religion in general. There's no real difference.

Funny, not painful: The Unicorn Museum. If the Cretinists get equal time, so should the IPU (May Her hooves never be shod). It's only fair, if you're going to disregard merit as a measure of time. ...Anyone know a spaghetti museum?

This is painful without any funny.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Skeptics' Circle Reminder

Well, you've got about a week to get those posts in order! First tier deadline is Tuesday, August 14th, at midnight. Trust me, it'll be cooler if you submit before then. Those past that deadline, well, it'll be merely nifty. Keen, tops.

Anyway, here's where you send the stuff:

Cocksnack's Back! (Part 2)

Since he's done his darndest to make a display of bravely running away, thus derailing a comment thread or two, I think I'll relocate them here, below the fold, but still in a main post, rather than let them waste away from memory in comments. Here they can be more easily referenced.

The comments are wide open in this, with only hacking forbidden. In other words, WILD THREAD!

Here's the list, by thread, including retorts from me and allied bloggers.

Originally from Doggerel #111: "Something More"
Cocksnack said...

I guess Meyers must've said a resounding no to your proposition.

7/20/2007 6:00 PM

Oh, burn. How witty. Did you learn that retort from Paris Hilton or something?

So, too cowardly to stay on topic? I'd rather not have you bring up your homoerotic fantasies on my blog.

7/20/2007 6:09 PM

grendelkhan said...

Better PZ's ass than Hank's ass, I always say.

7/23/2007 12:34 PM

Cocksnack said...

Whatever rocks your boat, dude. So long as it makes you happy.


7/26/2007 11:08 AM

Originally from Doggerel #117: "Life"

Cocksnack said...

I sincerely believe that you all came from an illegitmate relationship between PZ Myers and his pet ape.

There is plenty of empirical evidence to prove that.

8/07/2007 10:45 AM

Bronze Dog said...

Well, another cowardly act of running away from the subject.

Anyway, what empirical evidence? Last I checked, any pet that would be described as an "ape" and humans are reproductively isolated from each other. That's why they're different species.

And what's PZ got to do with this anyway? Is your wall plastered with nude photos of him? Why are you so monomaniacal about him?

8/07/2007 10:54 AM

Infophile said...

Who knows? Cocksnack's original blog was named "Pharyngula topics" or somesuch. Maybe he just picked one popular skeptical blogger and decided we all must idolize him.

Besides all of that, it's well known that PZed is a squid, and squid and apes can't interbreed.

8/07/2007 1:34 PM

Cocksnack said...

1. PZ likes spooning with Apes.
2. You like spooning with PZ.
3. Your mom looks like an ape.
4. You are just like your mom.

8/08/2007 12:55 AM

Bronze Dog said...

Each of those premises requires evidence. If you're going to be evasively and wussily off-topic, at least be brief by including all that sort of stuff in one post.

8/08/2007 6:35 AM

Anyway, expect more to be relocated here.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I Know It. You Know It: Pascal's Wager is Stupid and Other Rants

My inner Dilbert fan is once again given a reason to weep and seriously consider the possibility the strip being ghost-written, again. He's pulled out Pascal's Wager, along with a straw man of certainty, claiming that atheism is untenable without being omniscient.

To get the obvious out of the way: The typical atheist, myself included, does NOT believe that the existence of deities to be impossible. I simply see no good evidence for them, just like I see no good evidence for leprechauns, fairies, oni, ghosts, chupacabras, aliens currently visiting Earth, hushaboom explosives, unicorns, displacer beasts, beholders, Hogwarts, Klingons, Wookies, Delvians, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Don't be surprised if someone shows up to pull a variant on Pascal's Wager for one of them, by the way.

Despite any risk to Tinkerbell, I will say that I'm confident that there's no such thing as fairies. There's no evidence thus far, even though we'd expect to see some. I could be wrong, but the mere possibility of me being wrong isn't a good reason to believe in fairies anyway. Bring me a little winged person in a jar or shut up.

Now, replace "Tinkerbell" with "the Judeo-Christian god," "fairies" with "deities," and the winged person in a jar with a successfully generated miracle under controlled conditions. Deities aren't really any different from fairies on the scientific front. No evidence, no good reason to believe.

Onto Pascal's Wager: The wager is essentially an appeal to selfishness over truth, logic, and evidence. Which benefits you more: Belief or disbelief?

What's more is that they presume that there's only one type of deity in question: A kind of deity who sadistically tortures people for not believing and rewards people for believing. Usually, the people who bring up Pascal's Wager will do everything they can to pretend that there can't be other kinds of deities, or consider hypotheticals they didn't propose to be "cheating."

So here's a list of what ifs to irritate all of them:

1. What if the deity punishes people for doing evil deeds and rewards them for doing good deeds, with no regard for beliefs?

2. What if the deity punishes people for blindly believing in him and rewards them for thinking critically and thus doubting him?

3. What if the deity rewards everyone, regardless of what they do or believe?

4. What if the deity rewards people on a random basis?

5. What if the deity only punishes those who step on cracks in a sidewalk?

6. What if the deity doesn't care at all about human beings and only thinks about them as a meaningless, uninteresting by-product of a brane/string experiment he conducted 13.7 billion years ago?

7. What if the deity just throws everyone's souls up on the roof, where they get stuck?

I could go on and on. Even more so if you don't insert an a priori requirement that polytheism be impossible. For every hypothetical deity that rewards one action, we can make up another hypothetical deity that punishes that action. The only reason some deities get emphasized over other is for what amounts to American Idol epistemology: Popularity is seen as an indicator of truth or plausibility. Text in your votes during the commercial break.

All of this just amounts to argumentum ad baculum: Trying to convince someone to cave into the threat of force. For this mentality, truth is relative to whoever has the biggest club, and Hell is one of the favorites.

Adams makes the stupidity worse:

Let me put this in perspective. You might be willing to accept a 10% risk of going skiing and getting hurt, but you wouldn't accept a 10% risk of a nuclear war. The larger the potential problem, the less risk you are willing to tolerate.

An eternity in Hell is the largest penalty there could ever be. So while you might not worry about a .00000000001% chance of ending up in Hell, you can't deny the math. .00000000001% of eternity is a lot longer than your entire mortal life. Infinitely longer.

The problems with this analogy are:

1. We're pretty confident that there is such a thing as skiing accidents, and that they have a non-zero probability of happening. We can say no such thing about deities. No evidence.

2. How can we do anything to change the odds of receiving eternal punishment? Countless hypothetical deities, remember? Every action we take (or even inaction) will get on the nerves of one of them. I think I can safely say that we can go about our business as usual until the evidence is forthcoming. Then we'll know what to do or not do for a reward.

Now, just watch, Adams gets even stupider:
Personally, if I were more rational, and less focused on immediate gratification, I would become a moderate, peace-loving Muslim. My reasoning is that Islam has the best chance of becoming the dominant world religion in the future, and therefore probably has God’s backing, if he exists. The Muslim belief that death is sometimes a good thing is a huge advantage in a future where weapons are improving, and the only thing keeping people from using them is fear of death.

If you believe God exists, the smart money says he’s backing the team with the best strategy and long term viability. Based on what I see today, I’m betting on Islam being the only religion in a thousand years. Once you can build your own nuke from stuff you buy online, don’t be betting on the Buddhists.
Adams assumes, without reason, that the deity wants to be popular, cares about humans, and has a hard-on for tribalism. That may work as an entertaining premise in one of my D&D adventures, but I see no reason why reality must be constrained to having only anthropocentric deities, or why popularity equals plausibility.

Quote of the Time Being #12

It's not as short and sweet as most other snippy quotes, but it was left by commenter Gadren at Bad Astronomy. Touches on a few points I did a while back, though at a different angle.

I think pure research is important. Just because we don't know what benefits might arise from gaining the knowledge doesn't mean there will never be any.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

So, anyone using my Digg buttons? I installed them a while back, but didn't get much comment. Do they even work? I don't hang around all those sites, so I don't know much about the process.

EDIT: I'm currently trying to put an array of buttons, including a StumbleUpon one, but having technical difficulties.

Doggerel #117: "Life"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.
Robot villager: Mumbo, perhaps. Jumbo, perhaps not! With all your modern science are you any closer to understanding the mystery of how a robot walks or talks?

Farnsworth: Yes, you idiot! The circuit diagram is right here on the inside of your case!
There are a lot of woos out there who like to believe that life is something super-special on a fundamental physical or metaphysical level (as if that somehow added to the value we assigned to it). These sorts typically believe that all the various chemicals shuffling about can't account for all the stuff life does, and thus there must be some ethereal, supernatural component that sets it apart from all the other kinds of chemical reactions out there.

This usually comes up in the Creationist canard of "Life cannot come from non-life," typically stated as an a priori impossibility, though sometimes including a misuse of the debunking of spontaneous generation, as if whole maggots or rats were comparable to some small amounts self-replicating chemicals. They usually proceed from that a priori to assuming that God must be the cause of life, which leads us to the familiar ground of the "What caused God?" question that never seems to get responded to in a serious manner.

In short, because humans don't know everything about life, they conclude, via argument from ignorance, that we can never answer further questions without going to their favorite supernatural cause.

This kind of vitalism is also popular with alties, who claim that their pet hypotheses address the issue of "life forces" and such, while mainstream medicine is allegedly blind to anything beyond the physical, despite the fact that science is about viewing results. We reject chi, qi, prana, and all that stuff because it doesn't get results when you look at it carefully.

For now, I'll leave vitalism in the unambiguously fictional realm of Dungeons & Dragons.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Pointless Question #5

You've been captured by Daleks. You're their legendary foe who always comes up with some clever way of thwarting their plans for universal domination. They're equipped with a death ray, nigh-impenetrable armor, and a plunger that somehow works as a multitool.

Why don't they just shoot you?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Completely Irrelevant Vehicular Rant

Got myself riled up a bit during my commute home that featured a detour for an errand. Please note that a lot of these opinions are exaggerated.

You know all those car commercials that have the cars bouncing around town, driving winding roads in the countryside, and just generally trying to make their car look fun?

I don't get it. Driving is not fun. Driving is a chore. To summarize my attitude to driving, it's along the lines of "extreme laundry day." Note that I'm going by a quote I heard long ago from some extreme sports athlete commenting about the silly overuse of "extreme" in marketing: "If you can't die while doing it, it's not extreme."

Driving is a series of life-and-death decisions and it just wears on me. Keep the flying, talking cars. Just give me one that'll safely drive itself. While you're working on that, how about at least giving me some stuff that'll help save me from making some stressful decisions.

Back to the commercials: A lot of these commercials out there convince me that the marketers making them have only learned about driving from videogames and watching others do it from a window seat on the bus. I don't need my extreme laundry day to be more extreme. The most reasonable commercials I've seen are those that emphasize safety, comfort, gas mileage, and economy. If you're doing an extreme chore every day, you might as well be a little less extreme, more comfortable, and generally have less impact on the environment and your wallet.