This is what it looks like when you say #AllLivesMatter

Just saw this on social media and it conveys the message well.

WhenYouSilenceBlackVoices

If we (white people) want to be allies, we need to stop making it about us. Saying black lives matter doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter; it’s about addressing the inequality where it needs addressing. You don’t help starving people by feeding people who aren’t starving. You don’t help women who are victims by protecting men. So why would you respond to a call to help black people by making it about anyone other than black people?

I’m going to go a little further and say something that might seem contentious: We (white people) can never fully understand the point of view of victims of racism. We can never understand what it means to be a person of colour. We can try. But we can never really get it.

No matter how much empathy we have; no matter how much we try to imagine their plight, it’s still just imagination. We don’t live their lives. No matter how many black people we know, no matter how much we talk to them and how much we listen, no matter even how long we live with them, we are still not them.

Even if you live with a person of colour for several years and have a child with that person, you still don’t get it. People treat them differently when you are together. Even small things… like calling a school and asking about the admission of the child, can be different for them. When my ex called a school last year about her daughter, the woman on the other end of the line was rude to her because she could hear she wasn’t white. That same woman was polite and even friendly to me. And that’s just a small thing – a five minute conversation over the phone.

If we want to be allies, we need to understand it isn’t about us. I don’t know exactly what to do to help. But that’s because I’m white. I’m the wrong person to ask.

Poor logic – bad arguments and logical fallacies abound around coronavirus deniers (covidiots)

This one is from that PrayerWorks Facebook group I’ve mentioned before.

FalseDichotomy

Best reply I saw to it went something like this:

If seatbelts work, WHY the airbags? If airbags work, WHY the seatbelts ? If BOTH work, WHY the ROAD REGULATIONS?

Amusing that the original status comment was “critical thinking”. Nope. Sorry. Nope nope nope. That’s not critical thinking and calling it as such doesn’t make the statement true. Actually that’s a textbook example of bad arguments and logical fallacies, except of course there’s no such textbook. Maybe that’s the problem? We’re never taught critical thinking.

I first heard of logical fallacies about ten years ago, because I searched for information about bad arguments after seeing them repeatedly and they struck me as wrong, not because I knew why they were wrong but because I didn’t. The thing about bad arguments is they are a natural product of the way our brains work. Sometimes we might recognize that they’re wrong but not be able to point out why… At least that’s how it was for me. I knew they were wrong, but it was more like what we in software development call “code smell”. It just looks wrong but you can’t necessarily say why until you examine it more closely.

In the example above, the fallacy is of course a false dichotomy, also known as a false dilemma or excluded middle. That’s when a proposition is made that includes only two options as if they are the only options and that they contradict one another, and our brains are tricked into perceiving such a proposition as valid. Meanwhile, two options could, for example, both be true, both be false, or be two of many truths/mistruths. I’ve linked to three different explanations just to show how widely known this type of fallacy is. In the example, it is further being used to set up a straw man argument, because the person making it, who opposes safety measures during a pandemic, is misrepresenting the argument used by her opponents, in that nobody claims this is a simple binary. In reality, when it comes to safety measures, more measures complement each other.

There are many more well known bad arguments and logical fallacies, so many that it would be pointless for me to try listing them. Here’s one example where someone has put together a cute illustrated book about them. If you search for them online, it yields over 7 million results with some great articles on the first page.

An interesting bad argument going around at the moment is around so-called “liberty”. People are claiming that having to wear masks, or stay indoors, infringes on their freedom. Amusingly we can return to the seatbelt rebuttal again, but for a different reason. According to an article on Business Insider, in the 1980s when legislation was proposed to enforce the wearing of seatbelts, 65% of Americans were opposed to it, for reasons similar to the current opposition against safety measures. (“Don’t tell me what to do!”)

So what’s going on here? Well, people are fighting for their rights. But you don’t exist in a vacuum. When your rights affect other people – when your right to do something harms someone else or infringes on the rights of someone else, it becomes less important than the consequences of your actions. Your right to anything thus exists in a broader social context where other people also matter. I have the right to smoke cigarettes. But that doesn’t mean I can smoke them wherever I want, in public places and in other peoples’ homes, because me being reckless about my health doesn’t give me the right to ignore the rights and the health of anybody else.

Likewise when I was a meth addict, I told myself that despite the illegality of drugs, I had the right to choose to use them. But when my use affected my work, when the livelihood of others and other things I don’t want to get into came into play, the consequences of my poor choices made my right to blow my mind quite irrelevant. And this is exactly the same when people refuse to follow safety precautions during a global pandemic. Your “liberty” does not give you the right to risk making other people get sick and possibly die.

To summarize, critical thinking is important. It’s a skill we aren’t taught and one that doesn’t always come naturally. Our brains don’t think rationally automatically. We see patterns where none exist, we impose meaning on the meaningless, make connections where none are to be found, and sometimes bad arguments make sense to us, especially ones like the classic false dilemma, and especially when it makes an argument to support a point of view we are already emotionally invested in. That’s why it is crucial to work on our critical thinking skills, and one way to make a start is to read up on and understand common bad arguments and logical fallacies.


Meh – I wrote this earlier and it isn’t even published yet, but I see the COVIDiots have moved on. Now they are claiming that those of us who actually care about safety measures are acting out of fear. This is a red herring. Another fallacy, and even if fear is a motivator, it has no relevance. I’m adding this as an “aside” because it would otherwise fuck with the flow of the last three paragraphs.

Beware bad or sensationalized science reporting

A friend shared this on Facebook and I’m annoyed.  Not with my friend, who has poor eyesight and was tricked into hoping this might be true, but by shoddy “science” reporting. The article is titled…
A new artificial eye mimics and may outperform human eyes.

052020_mt_bioniceye_feat-1028x579
A new design for an artificial eyeball (illustrated) could someday give keen eyesight to androids, or be used as a high-tech prosthetic.

Yaying Xu, © oFantastic Color Animation Technology Co., Ltd.

I copied the fine print from the original article too. It annoys me because that is highly misleading. Note what the copied text states…

The artificial eyeball (illustrated) could someday give keen eyesight to androids, or be used as a high-tech prosthetic.
(Emphasis mine.)

Note the clever way they phrased that? It should be pretty clear then:

  1. An engineer has designed this. It doesn’t actually exist yet. If it did they’d include a photo, not an illustration.
  2. It could, theoretically, if it actually existed, be used by an android, if such an android existed.
  3. It could, theoretically, be used as a prosthetic to replace a human eye, if some kind of interface existed to connect the electronics to the central nervous system.

Uh-huh. Might as well have said “based on a true story”. And by the way, when a movie is based on a true story, the story is “Somebody once existed and something happened”.

The third point is the doozy. Admittedly the first two points also point out problems, but even if we assume that they can build this thing, and as in the article described, the fake retina works and it outputs the image data, there is no interface to connect this to our biological systems. You could just as well claim that any robotic arm “could someday” work as a prosthetic human arm, and would have the same problem: There is no way to connect it to the central nervous system and no way to expect our brains to be able to use it.

It isn’t a challenge to make a device that can take in light, focus it on some kind of plane and somehow record the image data. Imagine if there were a name for such a thing? Well, guess what? I remember doing a school science project on the basic principle when I was around ten years old, a project about how cameras work. Cameras have existed for a while now… 1816 was the year the first camera was invented, and 1975 the year of the first digital camera. We all have pretty decent digital cameras in our smart phones these days, and they don’t look like clunky fake eyeballs. There is no challenge in making a camera – neither one that looks like an eyeball nor anything else. The challenge is in connecting some kind of electronic device to our biological central nervous systems, and they just gloss over it in that silly article.

To be fair, there must be some kind of application for the thing. It has a synthetic retina-like structure with what looks like thousands of light sensors, so there must be some reason the scientists have designed it and written two research papers about it. But even so, it’s doing all that just to achieve what a camera does anyway, like some kind of miniature Rube Goldberg machine. But whatever its purpose, it surely has nothing whatsoever to do with what the article implies. The article is bullshit. Don’t be misled by such articles. And I hate to have to bring this up, but if ever you read anything claiming the human mind, or even worse, consciousness, can be downloaded into a computer, that’s bullshit too. For similar reasons.

If belief in something requires a permanent suspension of disbelief, and no evidence supports the thing, that thing is probably not true

We’ve probably all met somebody who believes in the existence of literal angels. Not fuzzy wuzzy guardian angels where the person makes vague statements about being watched over and it is ambiguous whether or not they really mean it, but somebody who actually thinks angels are real. It’s always a man or woman into New Age woo, or some other kind of religious extreme. And we all react the same way. We say nothing to their face but go away thinking they’re out of their fucking mind, but harmless enough, so we forget about them. That’s just aunty Carol, who believes in angels and Tarot and healing crystals and talking to Jesus. She’s sweet and nice and she shouldn’t be locked up in a padded cell because her belief doesn’t do any harm.

Likewise, when homophobic uncle Richard claims he talks to Jesus, who comes down from Heaven for a cup of tea and a chat about those nasty homosexuals, we know that person is not quite right in the head about either god or his self-hating repressed sexuality. (Aside, here’s a newsflash for homophobic Christians who love talking about gay sex: Straight people never think about gay sex.) Interestingly, his belief includes prejudice for a minority and does do harm, but because it is part of his religion, we ignore that. (But that’s not my topic for today.)

And yet, to believe in a religion like Christianity, as so many do, requires one to accept that god and his angels used to come down to Earth, two thousand odd years ago, but they don’t any more. So when did they stop? Why would they stop?

We know that anybody who claims to speak to god and angels now is insane. (I’m choosing to focus on people we’ve all known who are thought to be eccentric. Not obvious con artists who run their own religions and make money, or the suckers who believe in them. And I assume none of those types read anything here.) Yet to believe that this used to happen thousands of years ago requires living with a permanent suspension of disbelief.

This, among other things, is the truth that dawned on me back when I was sixteen years old. The main difference between now and two thousand years ago is we are a lot less ignorant than we were then. Deities don’t come down to Earth now, and they didn’t then. Angels don’t come down to Earth now, and they didn’t then. Because deities and angels aren’t real. All supernatural things aren’t real. It’s all pretend. Deep down, if you know that anybody who claims to see those things today is mistaken, you know that those things were never real. So you have to suspend your disbelief. You have to lie to yourself and pretend, just like when you watch a movie. And you believe those lies you tell yourself. That’s the difference between believers and atheists. We stopped pretending.


Noteworthy, I think… I generally avoid arguments like this because theists into debating often make what they believe is an equivalent argument, asserting that we all “know” their god is real and are “angry with him”. Apart from the “angry with god” thing which is an argument they’re taught to repeat parrot-fashion, the part that we “know god exists” is an example of psychological projection, a method of avoiding the argument by projecting your own beliefs onto others. But I do think that when it comes to suspension of disbelief, my argument is valid. I’m not saying you “know” god isn’t real but that you do recognize when certain claims are crazy, while holding beliefs similar to those claims and lying to yourself, or avoiding thinking about them entirely, to continue to hold them. Hence today I’m publishing this argument anyway.

Maybe me being an atheist was inevitable in this sense… I was unable to avoid thinking about these things, and also unable to lie to myself about them. Discarding those beliefs was a natural part of me growing up.

 

Urgh. Pandemic deniers are doubling down on the stupid

You’ll have to excuse the excessive quantity but not necessarily quality of blog posts from me lately. I’m going slightly mad, cooped up here at home. I wrote three or four posts over the weekend and only published two of them, because I try to keep some semblance of quality here. Oh well…

Still A Facebook ghost, I lurk and read the shit on my wall. Amazed. Let me show you two posts that showed up right now:

Retardation

That one isn’t in my friends list but was screen grabbed by a friend.

As annoying as that one is, I find this one even worse:

EarLoopMaskBullshit

Shared by a friend who is also an atheist and critical thinker, it doesn’t look like she exercised her critical thinking so well to me. That label is highly implausible. I mean, it is obvious bullshit. Why would you make masks with a label informing everyone not to use them? For fuck’s sake, think, people!

I wear a mask not to protect myself, but in the hope that, should I become infected and not know it, as long as I don’t sneeze or cough really hard, it should be effective enough at protecting the people around me. It should prevent droplets containing the virus being released by me. That’s why I wear a mask… It’s not all about me.

If we all take reasonable precautions, maybe we can slow the spread of the virus. So far we do seem to be doing a good job of keeping the rate of mortality down. I’m no expert, but I’m going to go with whatever seems best.

Why are people against Antifa?

I’ve been on a Facebook ban since May 10th, but I see this status from May 7th is still getting comments. It’s my own public status, so unlike some of the other stuff I’ve screen-grabbed from social media and shared without permission here, I reckon this one is OK. I asked myself for permission, and then granted it to myself.

Jokes aside, I’m wondering why the fuck it is that so many people are opposed to Antifa…

AntiAntifa

The image above links to my status. Feel free to go there and point out to the guys arguing with the antifascists that they are wrong. That post was inspired by this image:

FuckThisGuy

That’s an anti Antifa button the scumbag is wearing as he makes a white power hand sign. (An OK gesture that’s been taken over by the alt-right.)

What always amazes me with statuses like that, is that without fail are people arguing that Antifa are the “real” bad guys. Or something. I don’t get it. It makes me wonder if these people agree with Donald Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” quote.

Can we not agree on this?

  • Fascism == bad
  • Antifascism == good

It really is that simple.

As long as men like that can walk around in America openly carrying their guns while black people are shot even though they are unarmed, something is seriously wrong. Antifa actually do something. Activists are active. Logically from my point of view, I side with the people who oppose fascism, just like I side with feminists who advocate for women’s rights by addressing the inequality where it exists.

Those same guys are the ones who argue against the “punch a Nazi” memes, claiming that those aren’t real Nazis. They also like to claim that Nazis were socialists because their party included the word “Socialist” in its name.

How is it that I, who simply oppose racism, fascism, homophobia, trasphobia, genital body mutilation, men who fight for the right to control women’s bodies, white supremacy, am supposedly far left? I oppose those things because this is the decent position to take. There’s nothing extreme about my view and I am seriously baffled as to why we don’t all see things this way.

Tis a fucked up world we live in.

The reason I quoted the word “activist” in that Facebook status should be fairly obvious: Activists don’t fight for the oppressors. Pro fascists, men’s rights activists and so on do not count as activists. Neither do any other people fighting for the “right” to oppress others, or Christians against safety measures during a global pandemic who fight for their “liberty” when they really mean the right to infringe on the rights of others.

There are bad claims, then worse claims; then there’s this

Oh, fuck me. This is funny.

What

Proud intact chap over here…

Now I’m not an activist, or an “intactivist” as that person calls it, but rather I just happen to be intact because my parents didn’t believe in circumcision. And thank fuck for that. Or maybe thank that for fuck, but I’ll get to that later…

I’m an atheist now, but was brought up Catholic, and I didn’t even know that other Christians ever got circumcised, not until I had to do a year of conscription in the old SA army. It was then that I noticed a friend’s sad little penis and asked him, innocently enough, what the fuck was wrong with it. In retrospect, my words may have been poorly chosen, but this was before I learned to be more subtle.

Even when my son was born, my ex, who was also brought up Catholic, wanted to have him circumcised. I would not let that happen, and at least on this occasion she didn’t get it done anyway. (She gave our dog away while I was at work, so she could have done this without my being able to stop her. But she didn’t. Thank goodness.) When she wanted to have it done, my initial response was, “But we’re not Jewish”. Because I still figured it was generally a Jewish thing.

Anyway, there is no good reason to cut off part of anyone’s penis. It’s an archaic practice and is based solely on religion. It’s not something I’m even passionate about. Just don’t do it because it is pointless. And it shouldn’t be pointless because you shouldn’t cut off the point and that’s the point I’m trying to make. I’m only intact because my parents weren’t idiots.

Which brings me back to my silly wordplay earlier… Not everybody seems to know this, but when it gets erect, the whole thing gets erect. Which means, as it fills up with blood and expands, the foreskin then pulls back, giving you more length. Like maybe 10cm more length. I don’t know exactly because I wouldn’t wanna measure it. While that doesn’t matter to most of us, if you have a little Donald Trump style micro-mushroom piel, it could very well double your length. And “size doesn’t matter” is just a little white lie that mothers tell their inadequate sons. Sorry for you…


I’m not exactly sure who this “Sumer Anunnaki” is but I do like his choice of name. The Anunnaki were a group of supposed deities worshipped by ancient Sumerians, but they are perhaps more famous for being incorporated into the infamous mistranslations by one Zecharia Sitchin and his ancient aliens nonsense, which is then incorporated into the Nibiru Cataclysm end of world conspiracy. So there are people out there who seriously think this non-existent planet is still coming, to “bring back” the Anunnaki to “enlighten us” and such, where the Anunnaki are some kind of spiritual aliens or something – it’s not entirely clear… but the long and short of it is the full version of the end of world conspiracy back in 2012 was batshit crazy and most people probably only heard the condensed (but still crazy) version.

So I figure Sumer is a troll, but a good one. It takes some skill to get 117 angry comments, mostly by men whose fragile masculinity has been challenged. I doubt that my attempt above, to challenge the other group of men who are circumcised, will be anywhere near as effective. Well done.