Is Google reverse image search sexist?

A quick one and rhetorical question for you today…

I’ve become quite fascinated with https://thispersondoesnotexist.com/, which generates random real-looking faces. Most of the time. Sometimes it generates people with half glasses, messed up ears, or creepy meat bag half formed faces to the side. You just hit refresh and every time you do so, it generates a new face. (If you search for the URL, you will find articles explaining the technology behind it. Quite fascinating.)

But here’s an odd behaviour of Google’s reverse image search, after searching on two randomly generated images…

gentleman

girl

(Edit: I’ve set the images above to link to the image search so you can see for yourselves. They do actual reverse image searches using the images I uploaded to Facebook, so if ever the algorithm changes, the results you’ll see will be different.)

  • A reverse image search of a young man, who does not exist, comes back as gentleman.
  • A reverse image search of a young woman, who does not exist, comes back as girl.

Hey Google, what’s up with that?

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Our fears vs what we should fear

I was thinking about this last night… It seems to be a pattern – we have our fears, the things that keep us up at night or worry us during the day. But those fears are irrational. They have nothing to do with the things, if any, that we should fear.

Take my mother, for instance. She was afraid of what might happen to the cats if she let them out at night. Especially the black cat, because she couldn’t see where he went. Even in the day, she’d walk after him in the garden, calling his name and jingling her house keys. Even Josh would do that at one stage to help her, walking after the cat, calling “Sooty, Sooooty” and jingle-jangling the fucking keys.

But I let the cats out most nights in these two months since my mother died, and they’re fine. I had a scare with Sooty one weekend where he disappeared for the whole weekend, but he was back, meowing for his food on Monday morning.

My mother also feared taking sugar. I still have stacks of her sweetener in the cupboard. She should have feared smoking. No point in avoiding sugar and taking vitamins if you still smoke cigarettes. That’s about as useful as shooting yourself but wearing ear mufflers to protect your hearing.

Donald Trump seems to be afraid of brown-skinned people. Mexicans, Muslims, black people… it doesn’t matter, as long as they aren’t white they’re terrorists. Seems to be he has some legitimate reasons to be afraid, and people who aren’t white are not one of those reasons.

I had other examples, but they’re too personal, so fuck it.. Sorry. But I think the point is made.

What we fear and what we should fear are very different things. I’m not sure what you can do with this information; I have barely processed it myself. As for me, I’m considering what I feared in the nightmare (that I didn’t write about) and trying to get a better mental picture of my life and what I should rationally fear instead. I think fear can be useful, if it is rational and we respond in a healthy way, but irrational fear does nobody any good. But I do have the impression that our fears often are irrational. We grow up and grow out of our childish fear of the dark, yet our adult fears are almost without exception no more rational than our childish ones. More sophisticated, yes; rational… no.

Reminder: There is no objective morality that comes from your god. Not all Christians being homophobic demonstrates this.

One of the most common claims I read in atheist vs theist debate groups was that atheists have no morals. It’s the flip side of the argument from morality – the claim that morals come from your god. Incidentally, it doesn’t follow logically that atheists wouldn’t have morals, even if we were to assume the claim that they came from your god was true. Does disbelief “uncreate” your god’s creations?

I have always responded to this claim by arguing that morality is subjective, and that since moral values are different in different locations, even in the same year and same religion, this demonstrates that the claim of objective god-given morality is nonsense. But I forgot about something: homophobia.

asshole_god

Not all Christians are homophobic. That inconsistency should tell you something. Some of them claim that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin. Some do not. In fact, one has to reach and use some creative interpretation to find anything that truly refers to homosexuality in the Bible. As always, believers read their own morals into the Bible, so those who hate LGBTQ people will always tell you it’s a sin. Those who don’t, will not.

I don’t care what your Bible says about it. It’s a book of nonsense anyway. The only reason it matters to me is that these different interpretations of it apparently result in Christians who have very different moral values, right now. A couple of hundred years ago, Christians’ morality involved accusing people of witchcraft, and punishing them for it. So without even considering that Christians, who mostly no longer believe in witches, used to stone or burn them hundreds of years ago (and still  do in some remote places), we can see that right now, morality among Christians is subjective.

That’s the way it has always been. You get your morals regionally… from your parents, your peers, and the beliefs prevalent in society. Then, if you are religious, you read those morals into your religion, and claim that they came from your god. And as the meme used shows, if those “morals” happen to be hateful, you claim it’s not you, but the rules of your god.

South Africa’s very own Uncle Tom shows us how “far” white South Africans have really come

Recently I noticed something strange in my Facebook feed. A friend named “Dumisa Mbuwa” who writes long statuses that at first glance are critical of the ANC, each of which has dozens or more reactions and comments from white people agreeing with him. Then yesterday I looked a little closer.

I commented the obvious observation… this guy is saying exactly what privileged white people want to hear. It did not go well. Instead of rising to the criticism and stating a more nuanced position on politics, or anything really, he suggested that I would perhaps feel better if I unfriended him. In other words, he made it about me. That’s what narcissists do, or people who are not being honest. It’s a red flag. And this was followed by many of his white friends defending him or attacking me. One person even implied my profile is fake because of the avatar I now use (it’s used here as well) that a friend created for me. Another suggested that I am race baiting and asked why I made it about race. Hello, his profile is most probably fake, a persona that exists exclusively for race baiting, and because I pointed it out, I get called the race baiter?

Anyway, I can’t link to him because the reactions from his white fans were enough to prompt me to block and unfriend. But he writes articles online and they are easy to find. Examples:

There are many more but I don’t think I need to link them.

From that last one… the title of which itself seeks to dehumanize black people. (Not to mention fear mongering about violently taking land reminiscent of the far right American “THEY WANT ARE GUNS” type of fear mongering.) The opening paragraph:

Blacks have proven themselves for 24 years to be completely useless at doing anything that is worthy of taking our beloved South Africa forward.

And it closes with:

A New Beginning will only emerge the day Black South Africans openly Denounce the ANC for Sodomizing our beautiful Country. And turning it into a Malnutritioned Crack-smoking, pregnant 24-year-old broke, deranged Black girl; who stands barefoot, aimlessly on filthy township street corners looking for depraved male customers.

She’s already a dead, walking zombie and she knows it. Unless she admits her Folly and Turns Away from her Evil Master (the vile, Satanic ANC). Only then will she begin to walk towards Life!

That’s a metaphor for the country… a crack-addicted prostitute. But note the hatred towards black people, the ANC, and sex workers, plus the hint of unhealthy religious beliefs.

His choice of words often refers to black people as “blacks”, making the word black itself a pejorative the way he uses it in sweeping generalizations to dismiss millions of people, telling the racists exactly what they want to hear. (That black people are stupid, incompetent and have messed up the country. It says everything except the word ‘inferior’ but is close enough, surely?) I’m not going to quote any more because it’s really quite sick. So much vitriol…

It’s unclear whether he really is a self-hating black man or a white man writing under a pseudonym, but whoever wrote it clearly does hate black people. But one thing is clear: The hundreds of white people liking and commenting on his posts reveals that we have not come so far from apartheid after all. While the reasons for those vile Facebook statuses and articles may be unclear, they do serve as an accidental social experiment to reveal how deep the racism and hatred still lies here.

If you are one of those people agreeing with him, shame on you.

How come I don’t know any “recovering” smokers?

I don’t know how many smokers there are worldwide – probably millions. And probably millions more who have quit. But nobody tells them the “dry drunk” concept applies; that you are “once a smoker, always a smoker”. There are no claims that one cannot quit cigarettes without a sponsor and a higher power. Nobody insists that former smokers are still smokers who just aren’t smoking cigarettes, even though their problem was obviously addiction. Why do you think that is?

I deduce one thing from this situation: The idea that addiction cannot be cured but requires life-long treatment must be false. I’m no scientist or psychologist though, so I can only argue my case. My case is of course anecdotal. I as a former meth addict say that I have no interest in ever using my drug of choice again… and thus I call myself a former addict rather than a “recovering” one. I am, after all, not doing anything to “work on my addiction”. But I can’t prove that what I say is true. I can prove neither that it is what I am really thinking nor that I really have abstained completely since September 2013. You have to take my word for it, and my word may not be enough. (Aside: I don’t believe anyone who works 12 step programs is actually working on their addictions anyway, but that isn’t relevant to this post.) However, if you expand my argument to include other former addicts who quit without 12 step programs, it gets a little stronger. And if you include former smokers, it becomes quite the compelling argument indeed.

To clarify the point above… If we know of any addicts who have successfully cleaned up for years, any at all, it casts doubt on the notion that one remains an addict even with abstinence. And if we stop ignoring former smokers like most people do, because that addiction inconveniently contradicts this belief, then the belief is surely wrong. (Personally, I have never believed it. This post is simply an argument using former smokers to support my view. So in a nutshell, I’m saying we cherry pick which addicts to look at to come to the widely accepted view that addicts remain addicts even with abstinence. I’m ignoring weed completely because there are widely dissenting views on it and I have not yet formed my own opinion.)

We know why hard drugs are treated differently to cigarettes… they’re criminalized. Using hard drugs comes with moral judgement and habitual drug users are seen as less moral than others – one need only watch popular series or movies, or follow meme trends on social media to understand how people in general perceive addicts. I believe the driving force behind the negative beliefs about addicts are purely moralistic, mostly because of the criminalization of drugs.

“What about alcohol?”, you ask. (Actually my argumentative brain asks; always ready to fuck up a perfectly good argument.) I’m not sure… We tend to turn a blind eye to people who abuse alcohol to a certain point, like that guy who always gets out of hand at the office party… but if someone shows up at work smelling of alcohol or their drinking spirals out of control to an obvious day-drinking pattern, we do judge them harshly.  So perhaps it is not the legality of the substances we use, but it is about a moral stigma attached to some substances, as well as other factors including our overall behaviour and the way we use those substances.

So my argument stands. Addiction to cigarettes is treated differently to other addiction because of the lack of moral judgement of smokers. It would be interesting to see how addiction treatment differed, for hard drugs and alcohol, without the moralistic approach. I’d love to live in a world where addiction was treated purely by psychologists and medical professionals rather than by the 12-step religious cult-like approach.


Aside: Not my main point for today, but I do believe the legality of alcohol, while it remains a substance that is one of the most common to be addicted to, should raise questions for those who advocate the legalization of all drugs. It does for me anyway. In my opinion, you can’t argue that addiction is only a problem because drugs are criminalized. You can’t, because alcohol is legal but remains one of the worst drugs. I’m not necessarily arguing against the legalization of drugs, mind you, just saying in my opinion it is not enough…

Yet another aside: If you see any web article in the format of “[Insert celebrity/singer name] seen enjoying cigarette while [insert adverb here] in/at [Insert place here]”, there will be many comments by “disgusted” readers. Those comments, and the articles themselves, might give you the impression that there is a moral judgement of cigarette smokers, especially young attractive female smokers. (A moral judgement which contradicts my argument in this post.) But I believe the impression is a false one. Those comments are not what they seem. Just like the most homophobic male preachers are secretly attracted to men and in their self-hatred express the opposite of what they really mean, the commenters to the “girl caught smoking” articles are probably secretly attracted to smokers and thus their comments are ironic. So the comments and the article type alone is indication of a smoking fetish prevalence. (In fact, any article you see that describes an arbitrary habit of a celebrity is probably not what it seems but these things are way outside the scope of this blog post.)

Please don’t add me to atheist vs theist debate groups

At one stage, I was into those debates. I’m not any more. So if you are my Facebook friend and you’re thinking of adding me to one of those groups, please do not.

Yesterday I left two of the worst of them, with a parting comment that I captured, along with the status, to show how pointless it is. And yes, I have deliberately not blurred names in the hope that it might break the rules, because I really don’t want to be added back there. I’m not using the Facebook feature that prevents me being added back there because I’d like to believe that I can trust people to respect my wishes.

group2

group1

Maybe I was naïve when I started debating there, thinking that I’d take part in intelligent discussions with people whose views differ from mine… But there is no debate with these people. Most of the statuses are like the ones I’ve shown or are pure proselytization. The actual arguments are few and far between, and even those are just the same old circular reasoning, arguments from ignorance, clockmaker fallacy, arguments from personal incredulity, and so on.

I’ve spent enough time seeing examples of the same bad arguments and logical fallacies. No more. I’m not going to leave all of the groups, and I did make some atheist friends there a few years ago, but the last few years my friends have come mostly from atheist and support groups. I have moved on from the debating mindset and encourage others to do the same. There are much better things to do than arguing with people on the internet. If debates were about intelligent discourse where we could learn from one another, it would be another matter. But that’s not how it works.


Edit… Worth adding is that this debating thing causes unnecessary conflict anyway. The Christians and Muslims I’ve met in these groups are nothing like the religious people I know in real life. They’re stubborn, stupid, and frustrating to deal with. It creates this unnecessary us vs them mindset that really does no good to anyone.

What is God? (Baby, don’t smite me.)

Don’t smite me… No duh.

Heeeey, guess what? I’m fine. I can be as irreverent and disrespectful as I want. No deity ever does anything about it. And since I don’t live in a Middle Eastern country or a rural isolated area of Africa, the worst that ever happens is religious people stop talking to me. And that ain’t so bad. As I mentioned last time in the post about reification, the Biblical world where stuff happens such as god coming down and doing shit, is something of myths and fables and the imagination, that we are supposed to accept existed thousands of years ago. It isn’t real.

As much as you reify your Biblical world and your god, it is just an idea. God is an abstraction that explains the unknown and puts it in a neat little black box, a ready-made magical answer to everything. If you’re a believer, you simultaneously know that god is abstract, and forget it, but because you treat this abstraction as something concrete, it remains conveniently undefined and ambiguous. And convenient. Above all, it is a great convenience that your god remains undefined because you never have to qualify what this vague idea of a god actually is. When somebody questions it, it’s easy to turn the tables and expect them to satisfy the burden of proof. But that’s not my main subject today…

Today I want to comment on this stupid Dawkins scale that pops up in every atheist group over and over again:

vyp5iompt1s01

According to every other analysis everywhere:

  1. Positions 1 and 7 are impossible.
  2. Number 6 is left as the strongest possible (in other words rational) atheist position.

But I call bullshit.

I get the drill. I can’t prove that some unfalsifiable god doesn’t exist outside of the bounds of the laws of physics, and I can’t prove a negative; therefore the strongest position I should rationally take is that of an agnostic atheist. According to this argument, the existence or lack of existence is unknowable. But I still don’t buy it.

I also can’t prove that there isn’t a monster hiding under my bed. Maybe it moves when I look there? But you know while reading this that the monster is not real and I made it up.

Here’s the thing… Even in that argument, god is treated as something concrete. It reminds me of the media bias called false balance, where two “sides” of an argument are always treated as equal, even if one side is a fringe view based on outright nonsense. (Edit: That seems to be an example of a fallacy I hadn’t heard of: Argument to moderation.) The two sides here are positions one and seven; certainty that a god exists versus certainty that a god does not exist. Sure, when you phrase it like that, it seems reasonable. But it isn’t. God is nothing more than an abstraction. So god certainly exists, but not like theists think… God exists only as an idea. God is man-made but it is the reified deity that the argument refers to. And thus it is perfectly reasonable to take position seven. I don’t have to prove that a man-made fictional deity doesn’t exist, just like I don’t have to prove there isn’t a monster hiding under my bed.

I’m struggling to express this clearly and reading it back, remain uncertain if I have. Have I? There are multiple claims of gods, and believers often quote the words of their various claims (like the Bible or whatever) but seem to miss on something important: the existence of a claim does not make the claim true. It is evidence only of the belief and not in the subject believed. The fact that many such claims exist only makes it interesting in terms of the need to believe, and the mistake of treating this abstraction as concrete being common. If even Richard Dawkins can bake this mistake right into his scale, it says more about the way the human brain works than it does about an idea, like god, that the human brain came up with. I hope Dawkins would agree with me on this.

I’m not depressed–just sad and I miss my mom

I noticed that my posts about my mother have raised concern for at least one regular reader… So I’m writing this at lunch time at work; something I never normally do.

Don’t worry. I’m not depressed. Overall, I’m feeling pretty good about life. Not having my mother around combined with my laziness and habit of buying precooked meals, rather than eating her home-cooked meals every night as I was, has led to me losing a little weight. Not enough to be able to see it, mind you, but yesterday’s blood test results revealed that my cholesterol has actually gone down. Plus not smoking is going well. I’m actually healthier than I was.

But when I’m feeling down, I write about it. It feels good to let it out, and after a friend mentioned on Facebook that my statuses about my mother’s death help him deal with his feelings, I figured sharing them might be good not only for me. So I write them. This blog has become the outlet for a bunch of different things: my feelings about recovery; serious posts about atheism; serious posts about other humanism-related things like feminism; and sometimes I just pour my personal feelings out here. There’s no rhyme or reason – I just post what’s on my mind.

And with that, here are the two most recent photos of my mother. They were taken way back in 2014, at Josh’s sixth birthday party, and feature my mother pushing his sister Aishah, then 11 months old, on a swing.

I cannot emphasize enough how much I miss my mother.

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I mock religion and I won’t stop. Here’s why…

I’ve mentioned before how I lost my belief in god when I was sixteen years old, but I never really told the whole story and I think it’s a story worth telling, because it does show my choice to mock religion incessantly in a new light.

ReligionVsThinking

I was sixteen years old and in standard eight as we called it then – school kids these days would call it grade 10. I was a quiet and shy teenager who mostly kept to myself, or sometimes voiced my sarcasm and cynical criticism of pretty much everything softly in the back of class so that the louder “trouble-making” teens might hear me and repeat my words; which they frequently did. So basically I was as I am now – mostly quiet but always thinking and sometimes voicing my views. Because my statements were mostly perceived as “clever”, nobody bullied me or harassed me and I was for the most part left alone.

Such was not the case for Meri, a girl who had immigrated from Finland. Her accent, her vastly different views, her attitude, and the fact that she would not back down when challenged, especially for a girl, made her the butt of many jokes and the victim of unnecessary verbal abuse. I remember one day overhearing the end of an exchange,  between her and two or three others, including my friend Dale, who I respected until that day. Dale was one of the most intelligent people I knew, super smart – and my basis for this was that he was better than me at maths. Anyway, the argument was about religion. Dale laughed at her for not believing in god. Dale and whoever else was involved, but I can’t remember who the others were. They mocked her and she was almost in tears. Just because she didn’t believe the same as them. I remember Dale even saying to me, “How can she say there is no god?” as if the very suggestion was completely absurd because everybody “knows” god is real.

So after the conversation, I approached her. To be fair, I had my doubts about religion – I just hadn’t told anybody. I asked her, as a Christian, why she thought there was no god. She laughed. She scoffed. She could not understand why anyone would believe in anything obviously so absurd. She didn’t even say more than a few words, and that was it, my “Eureka!” moment. I knew at once that she was right. I knew that someone like Dale, who laughed at her, was dismissing her despite his intelligence. His intellect, even though it was greater than mine, was working against him. His high IQ was a reason not to think, and I knew at once that’s how it always works. When brushing off those like Meri who questioned the existence of god, we used our intelligence not to think, but to come up with excuses to continue believing what we already believed. That’s how it works. As an indoctrinated person, you think you “know” your god exists. Then when you dismiss people like Meri, your logic is no more than, “I believe what I believe because I believe it”. And that is no reason to believe. With that realization, my Christian faith dissolved instantly.

I wish I could say that was the end of it, but I am not that smart. I stopped believing in any god from that moment onwards, but my journey into my position of atheism I have now took many years. At the time, I still believed in ghosts, a soul, an afterlife, and all kinds of other nonsense. My position now, of not believing in anything for which no evidence exists, took more than another twenty years for me to reach.

However, I knew then what I know now about arguments for the existence of god: There aren’t any good ones. Every single argument, no matter how complex it may appear, has no more substance than that of 16 year old Dale’s argument. Every single argument starts with the assumption that god exists, because the believer thinks he or she “knows” this to be true. I have seen this proven to be the truth over and over again after joining Facebook debate groups. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of theists in debate groups are not clever like my friend Dale. There are clever theists, but the majority of debaters, especially those who partake the most and those who are more vocal about it, are absolute blithering idiots.

Likewise every “militant” atheist is a victim just like Meri. Every one of us has been singled out and humiliated because we dare not to believe but to think and question. We who do not claim to have a personal relationship with the creator of the entire universe are called arrogant for it. We are victimized and persecuted all over the world. We are bombarded with common phrases assuming that we believe the same as everyone else, and have to struggle with our children having the same nonsense imposed on them, even in supposedly secular countries. In my country (South Africa), the majority is Christian, and most Christians are quite oblivious to the way they impose their Christian-normalized views and privilege on everybody.

So I mock religion. I scoff at it just like my 16 year old friend all those years ago. I probably overdo it, but I don’t care, because my mockery of religion doesn’t even begin to approach the level it is imposed on people like me, and if I can reach through the brainwashing to even one mind, as Meri did for me all those years ago, it’s all worthwhile.