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Funniest Line in the World [Sep. 1st, 2012|12:30 am]
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"Are you yelling at your penis about Neil Armstrong again?"
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Value - Objective, Subjective and Bullshit [Aug. 23rd, 2012|09:41 pm]
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I was reminded of the common misconception that "value" is somehow an objective quality. Certain people... OK, certain fundamentalist idiots... seem to be particularly hung up on this idea. I'm not entirely sure why, but they seem to think that if value is subjective, the entire world will go to hell.

Well, what can you expect from those people. They're nuts.

My response has always been that things do not have value, they have value to somebody. I.e. value is subjective. It depends on who's making the evaluation and the circumstances at the time. A simple example will illustrate this.

Let's imagine you're stuck in a desert. You've been walking all day, you have no idea where you are or which way to go. Nobody's coming to save you and your throat feels like you've been eating charcoal. Which would you rather have at this point, a thousand dollars or a bottle of ice-cold water?
Unless you're suffering from heat stroke, you're probably going to pick the water.

If value is an objective quality, then you've just demonstrated that a bottle of water is, objectively, worth more than a thousand dollars. Therefore, if I offered to sell you a bottle of water for five hundred dollars, you should jump at the chance. You're getting it at half price. It's a bargain.
Moreover, you don't have to worry about getting stuck with the water. If the value is objective, then everybody else will also think the bottle is worth a thousand dollars and you will easily be able to sell it for nine hundred dollars and make a tidy profit.

Unless you're right now getting out your credit card, searching for the link to my webshop, you've in fact accepted that value is not objective. It depends. In some situations, to some people, water it worth a lot. At other times, to other people, it isn't.

We all know this and instinctively accept it, so why the hell do I have to explain it to these people over and over again? It gets to be tiring.
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A Thought On Threats and Misogyny [Jun. 21st, 2012|06:51 am]
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So, there was someone who posted a comment about how
No one is going to support someone that has threatened any woman with physical harm so that she is afraid to go someplace

Naturally, this (and the other nonsense) was quickly ripped to shreds like the garbage it is, but it sparked a thought, so here we go: In a sense, it's correct.
I say "in a sense" because I doubt the sense I have in mind have anything to do with what the poster intended, but hey, this is my blog, so I'm running with it.

People generally don't defend the guy who's making threats against women. Instead, they defend the guy who was viciously slandered by the horrible feminazis who completely misinterpreted his entirely innocent comments, took them out of context and twisted them around because they hate all men and really need to stop being so hysterical.

Of course, as it turns out, every single case always ends up being the latter. No matter how repulsively someone acts, no matter what they say, there will always be people ready to explain why it's really not threatening at all. We're always told that we've misinterpreted, that it's just hyperbole and besides, it's just the internet, so stop taking it seriously.
There's always a reason for why this particular case isn't actually a threat.

And so, they never defend the guys that make threats. Those guys apparently don't exist.
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A Ghastly Post On the Subject of Porn [Sep. 18th, 2011|10:10 pm]
So, someone brought up tentacle porn...

All the best stories begin like that don't they?
Anyway, my immediate response was to point out that Tentacle Pron is really a redundant term because is there any other kind? However, it got me thinking and I came to the conclusion that there is one problem with tentacle porn.

I know, I know. "What could possibly be wrong with tentacle porn. Has he gone mad?"
Let me explain.

The tentacle is an inherently phallic object. It aggressively possesses the object of affection by an act of penetration. Let's be honest: it's a mildly disguised dick. This brings us to the issue: It's impossible to make lesbian tentacle porn.

With the tentacle as an inherently male substitute, you can't possibly include it without reducing the lesbian merit of the scene. To the degree that tentacles are included, it's not lesbian porn. To the degree that it's lesbian, it's not tentacle porn. It's an inherent contradiction.

Thinking on this at length, I have, however, decided that it's for the best. I'm pretty sure that if the ideal lesbian tentacle porn was ever made, humanity would probably go extinct. After all, if such a thing existed, what would be the point of procreative sex?

So, in conclusion, the existence of life itself is due to the inherent incompatibility of lesbian porn and tentacle porn.

Offers of honorary degrees in pornographic physics may be conveyed by the use of the comments below. Leave your name, email and University affiliation and I'll contact you.
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Occam's Razor In Action [Aug. 25th, 2011|05:27 pm]
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So, I was just reading an question on Yahoo answers. The person was asking about the possibility of demons, because he/she had seen a black figure that looked kinda like a dog.

Let me repeat that. He/she sees something that looks like a dog and asks if it could have been a demon.


So I felt the need to write a bit on that, since it seemed relevant. It connects both to rational inquiry and skepticism in general, but also to god belief, which has been a recurring topic here.

Basically, it goes like this: Even if demons exist, we can surely agree that they're somewhat rare. I mean, it's not like you run into one on every street corner. Dogs, however, are as common as pig shit on a farm. Therefore, if we seen something that looks like a dog, maybe we shouldn't instantly jump to the possibility of demons. Unless there's some specific reason why it might be a demon, I think we should go wit the 'dog' explanation for now. Sure, the demon explanation might be more exciting, but really, I thought we were going for truth, not drama*.
If we go with the dog hypothesis, we might be wrong on occasion, but if we go with the demon hypothesis, we'll be wrong every two minutes. After all, demons can take the form of any animal or human**. If we're going to jump to "demon" every time it hypothetically could be one, we'd see demons everywhere. We should only say it's a demon when a demon is the most likely explanation.

It's the same thing with gods. For a moment let's say that there is one or more gods. Surely we can agree that occasionally things happen without a god's intervention, right? *** So, when something happens, we shouldn't instantly jump to the explanation of 'god(s) did it'. We should look at what's the most likely explanation and if something can be explained without a god, then let's leave them out of it.

I'm reminded of an argument I had with a theist, who claimed that a family member had been healed of cancer by the power of prayer. I suggested doing a calculation of the number of cancer cases, the proportion of believers and the percentage of cancers that went into spontaneous remission.
The result was that thousands of people every year experience spontaneous remission of their cancer and will attribute it to prayer, simply because of statistics. No god required. It's an artifact of large numbers.

Of course, believers are often encouraged to view every little detail of their life as a direct communication from god. This sounds to me more like an expression of wishful thinking than a rational understanding of the world. It's an effect created by your desire to have purpose in your life and to feel the hand of god guiding events. It's a comfort thing. It's a teddy bear for adults.

It's childish. Grow up.

* If not, fuck off. I'm not interested in talking to self-induced psychotics.
** You prove me wrong
*** If not, say goodbye to free will.
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Problem of Evil [Jul. 10th, 2011|09:18 pm]
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The classic problem of evil goes like this:
1) There is evil in the world
2) If god wants to prevent evil, but can't, then he's impotent
3) If god can prevent evil, but doesn't want to, he's not loving

Ergo, if a god exists, it cannot be the omnipotent, loving god of christianity (and various other traditions).

The standard defense is "free will":
1) God wants us to love him, as he loves us
2) Love cannot be forced and so free will is required
3) Free will must necessarily allow for the possibility of choosing evil
4) The cause of evil is people choosing to cause it

There are many rebuttals to this, but I recently came up with one I hadn't heard before, so here goes:

Does god have free will?

If not, then he's inferior to man and (by 2 above) incapable of love.
If yes, then follows the next question:

Does god ever make the wrong choice? Does god ever sin?

If yes, then he's not perfect and therefore not god
If no, then it's established that it's possible for a being to have free will and yet always choose the good, so why didn't god just make us like that?

There can be only two possible reasons why not. Either he couldn't (not omnipotent) or he decided not to (not benevolent). So, the free will defense does not provide an escape from the problem of evil. You end up right back where you started with the same basic problem.
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(no subject) [Apr. 26th, 2011|02:08 pm]

From Sagan's Pale Blue Dot:

>> Marcus Varro in the first century B. C. advised explicitly against building cities near swamps "because there are bred certain minute creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes, which float in the air and enter the body through the mouth and nose and there cause serious disease." <<

I wonder where exactly this quote comes from, what the context was and whether the translation is accurate. I imagine Sagan would get such things right, but I'd like to know for myself, since this has set some gears turning.
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Just an Observation [Apr. 15th, 2011|11:00 pm]
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Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
- 1John 4:20

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple.
- Luke 14:26

No contradictions, my ass.
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Male Privilege etc [Feb. 18th, 2011|02:51 pm]
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A recent thread on Pharyngula had a comment, with a bit that set me off. If wanted to address it, but since the thread had already moved on, I figured I'd do it here.

All I've said is that I don't understand the issues well SO PLEASE EXPLAIN IT TO ME otherwise no one ever will and I guess i'll carry on being sexist by default without realising it.

This is, I think, a common sentiment, so listen up. The position that

a) the non-privileged people must explain to you, the privileged one, how privilege works and in what way they are being discriminated against, and
b) if they don't, you'll just go on being blissfully ignorant and it's not your fault,

is itself a privileged position. This is a direct expression of privilege that you can afford to be ignorant of it. Sure, recognizing privilege when it benefits you is inherently difficult, but you have a friggin' responsibility to at least try. It's not the duty of the non-privileged to educate you. It's helpful when they do, but if they don't that doesn't let you off the hook. If you think it does, that's just another example of you being an over-privileged asshole.

You could start out with reading the huge number of resources on the net, usually in the form of [insert subject] 101. Do your homework. Then, if you still have questions, ask them. You're much more likely to get a respectful reply if you've shown a bit of respect yourself.
You show respect by first spending more than two minutes reading up on the basics before firing off ignorant questions that your conversation partner has already answered twenty times before, just in the last month.

Take a few steps yourself and others are much more likely to help take the next one. Stand in the corner and demand to be carried and you're just part of the problem, despite your protestations to the contrary.
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Arguments For God [Jan. 8th, 2011|05:31 am]
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All arguments in favour of the existence of God tend to follow a certain standard outline. Here's a small list of the most common types:

- You can't explain X, therefore God

- I really feel like it, therefore God

- This book/person/folktale says so, therefore God

- You're a big meanypants, therefore God

And of course, my personal favourite:

- Complete gobbledygook, therefore God

You'll notice that these arguments all follow the general outline of [insert logical fallacy], therefore God. This even holds true of the more "advanced" arguments, such as the Equivocation Fallacy for God the Ontological Argument for God.

There are also the arguments that give up on actually proving the existence of god, and instead try to prove the value of belief, such as:

- Churches give people a community, so you should believe

- Religion provides a moral framework, so you should believe

These arguments ignore the fact that beliefs are not necessary for any of these things; they are connected more by happenstance than anything else. Religion can't provide a single benefit, which couldn't also be provided by secular groups.

The only possible justification for religion is if the supernatural claims are true and that has never, ever, in the entire history of mankind, been demonstrated.
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