Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page
I’m sure you’ve met the type. These people worship at the altar of logic. They want to be Vulcan. Therefore, I claim these people are afflicted with something I’ve coined “The Vulcan Complex.”
I feel sorry for these people mostly because they are so in love with the idea that the answers to all of life’s mysteries can be unraveled through the might of their deductive reasoning skills. Many of them love to spend hours engaged in (pointless) debates in which they can exercise this muscle. Many of them adopt a position of sheer and total arrogant assholery as a result of their belief in the superiority of logical reasoning and their expertise therewith. In about 90% of cases, people who self-identify as atheists are victims of the Vulcan complex.
I’m not a tad more than armchar logician myself. I am well versed in logical principles, techniques, fallacies, etc., and I deride it for a variety of reasons, which I’ll outline here:
1. Logic cannot truly explain anything. Logical and deductive reasoning is used to arrive at new conclusions by combining true statements. If you work backwards you eventually come to your initial premises and, even though they may be observably true, you must ask why those premises are true. You can try to use reverse logic to work out the premises, but ultimately there is no end and no answer.
2. Logic relies on the absolute truth of the basic premises in order to function at any useful level. But what if the premises are flawed? This is one of the biggest problems that Vulcan Complex sufferers face. Most Vulcans don’t think much about this since they assume that anything published in scientific journals must be absolutely true, and they start at positions that are, themselves, logical fallacies (most often used are appeal to authority, appeal to tradition, appeal to popularity, and so forth). Logic only works if you are dealing in absolute truths, and those are few and far between (and many people believe they don’t exist at all). For any premise or position you want to start at, I can ask you, “prove it” and eventually you will get stuck with something that you can’t logically unravel. Debates only work when both the debating parties accept some ground premises as being true. I’ll give you an easy example: pro-life vs. pro-choice. Both sides of this argument agree that killing human beings is bad. This is why the debate has devolved into “life begins at conception” vs. “an embryo (or even a fetus) is not a human life.” You don’t see anyone arguing that killing human beings is not bad, therefore killing babies is not bad, do you? And why is that? Logically speaking this is a perfectly legitimate debate but everyone reflexively dismisses it, even Vulcans. And why? Let’s go on:
3. When it comes to human behavior, logic is almost entirely worthless. Virtually every behavior can only be explained by “biology” and usually the debate continues on to explain biology rather than the behavior itself. For example, sex. Why do men and women have sex? Because we have an instinctual drive to reproduce. Why? Because the humans who reproduced propogated their genes and humans who didn’t died out. Et cetera, et cetera. Most Vulcans will pride themselves on being able to debate why global warming must be true (because a climatologist said so) but they can’t logically explain why global warming skeptics make them angry. “Because they’re wrong, and they will continue to hurt the planet, and that will make my life, and my children’s lives, terrible because the earth will be a desert.” I’ve heard this one so many times it would make your head spin, even though it violates so many logical fallacies (false consequence, slippery slope, appeal to fear, etc). The real truth here is that they feel passionately about global warming regardless of any logical explanation (or any proof) and are angry because the skeptic disagrees with them. For Vulcans, anyone who disagrees with them is obviously being illogical (there goes the arrogance again) and must therefore not only be wrong a priori but are also stupid. I’ve just made a premature generalization. And I’ve also appealed to hypocrisy. Silly me!
4. As we’ve seen, you can’t use logic to conclude anything unless your premises are sound and virtually everyone (including Vulcan Complex victims) almost always start at the conclusion and work backwards which invariably leads to using premises that are not and were never true to justify the conclusion they’ve already reached. Virtually everyone who believes in global warming made a snap decision the instant they heard of it about whether they believe it’s happening or they don’t, and every piece of evidence they use to justify the position was arrived at after this conclusion was reached. The Global Warming Vulcan will claim to be making logical arguments (and perhaps those arguments are, in fact, logical) but it doesn’t matter, because the premises were picked specifically to support the position they’ve already chosen for themselves (and vice versa – the same is true of the skeptics!)
Logic is a wonderful tool. I make many thousands of dollars using it. The mistake that plagues the sufferers of Vulcan Complex is the absolute faith in logical, deductive reasoning as the only way to correctly explain everything in the world. Vulcans have decided (usually because they are good at it) that deductive reasoning proves or disproves every single aspect of the universe and as a result usually end up very unahppy, or waste decades of their lives trying to figure everything out with their head instead of realizing at a young age that your brain is only one (small) part of us, and the collective human mind is only one (insignificant) part of the universe.
Bush signed this today. Employers (and by extension, pretty much everyone else) is not legally allowed to discriminate based on genetic information. For all of America’s faults, and for as much doom and gloom as many of us see in our future, the spirit of America is still strong.
All men are created equal. Translation: everyone gets a fair shot to make it. You are what you do, not what you are. Very important concept. If only more people took this concept seriously.
America isn’t our cities, it isn’t our gas prices, it isn’t our occupation of Iraq. America is the spirit of a system that gives everyone the same opportunities to play their hand as best as they can with fair rules.
There are some elements in America today that believe that this isn’t good enough. Not only do we need to let people play their hands fairly (however they are dealt), but we also need someone to go from player to player, inspect their hands, and take cards away from winning hands and give them to losing hands so all hands are equal. When all hands are equal, nobody wins, and the money stays in the pot. Is that how the dealer wanted the game to be played?
Life is one part luck and nine parts hard work. The challenge is finding the energy and motivation inside yourself to do that hard work, even when you don’t want to. Everyone in America has the rights, freedoms, and opportunities to work as hard as they want to make as much as they want of themselves. Every American should respect this ideal. This requires accepting the fact that for every person who is willing to use those nine parts of hard work to overcome that one part of bad luck, there are nine people who aren’t. That’s life. Life is what you make of it, not what is given to you.
Happy belated Memorial Day. Go watch Gattaca.
One phenomenon that has always puzzled me – especially recently in the wake of this Iraq nonsense – is that I have actually listened to someone tell me with a straight face that he empathizes with Iraqi civillians and that any collateral damage done to them (e.g., death) “bothers” him.
I see it all the time. In fact I think it’s one of the driving forces behind the peace-loving no-war hippies who like to talk about things like Darfur. The fact that they invest energy even thinking about this let alone proclaiming to genuinely feel bad that something like genocide is going on in a country thousands of miles away to people they will never meet really makes me wonder.
I get the impression that these people aren’t lying – they believe themselves to empathize with these people. However, I would kindly ask that anyone who falls into this category would actually do anything about it.
I’ll give you an example. If you happen to be one of these people who are stricken with a condition that I call “Imaginary Empathy”, then think about this: if I gave you the opportunity to rescue just a single adult from the Darfur genocide, even if it meant taking this person into your home, feeding, and clothing him, even if he’s a radical Muslim who wants to kill you, would you do it? Before you say, “of course” I want you to listen to that little voice in the back of your head that, as soon as you read it, is chirping in the back of your head, “hah! yeah, right.” The most any of these “imaginary empathists” will ever do for anything they claim to care about is write a check. And why not? They’re buying emotional satisfaction with money, just like any other commodity. It is, in essence, a drug.
I don’t have a problem pitying the suffering poor around the world, but I also don’t have a problem admitting to myself that I, along with 99% of my fellow Americans, don’t care enough to do anything about it. I care more about keeping gasoline as cheap as possible than I do about an Iraqi family’s house getting accidently bombed by our occupation forces. I’m sure there are plenty among you who would call this inhuman, but I claim it is just the opposite. Mother Theresa was inhuman - superhuman. Most humans don’t give a crap about anyone – especially people thousands of miles away who probably hate you – enough to invest actual time, actual effort, actual work, in any of the convictions they supposedly have.
And that’s why I am so annoyed by this phenomenon and instantly lose respect for people who pretend to truly care about bad things that are going around in the world. You care about you and the people who are important to you in your lives, not about random 3rd world starving children. If you are wasting time thinking about how much you care about these people, either get on the next plane out to do something about their condition immediately or please shut up forever. Your time is much better spent doing than thinking about it or talking about it at parties.
You don’t truly empathize with these people, and you don’t really care about the world, or you’d do something about it. If you do really care about the world and aren’t doing something about it, then you’re a mouth breathing hypocrite who the world would be better off without. If you do care and are doing something about it, you have my respect. Too bad you’re so few and far between.
A brain tumor, you say? My, that explains a lot. Like, for example, his voting record for the last 40 years.
Teddy’s days are numbered. My prayers are not with Teddy. They are with Mary Jo Kopechne.
See you in hell, Kennedy.
“I support gay marriage.”
The next time you say this, I want you also to add this:
“I also support allowing women to play for the Rams and the Raiders, because someone’s gender should not disqualify them from any institution.”
Sounds pretty ridiculous doesn’t it? But then again, technically marriages are administered by the state and the NFL is a private organization, which is the same distinction that allows the Boy Scouts to openly discriminate against gays. That’s a mighty fine line though, isn’t it?
My only problem with gay marriage is that it makes gay parenting easier, and I don’t like the idea of gay parenting simply because I ask myself this question: would I have wanted to be the kid in school who has two daddies? I took enough shit for wearing glasses, let alone having gay parents. Come on.
So many people are so obsessed with the idea of “equality” that they believe anyone should be allowed to do anything no matter what, and they’ll pour millions into studies to try desperately to prove that kids who are raised in gay househoulds are normal. But they forget all these facts because the thought that somehow choosing to live an out, gay lifestyle should close any door that staying closeted or being straight opens for you is some kind of crime against humanity. I’m all for giving people freedoms but I’m also a fan of letting them bear the consequences of the decisions they make. Sure, you could argue that the consequences like, “you can’t get married” is artificial and arbitrary, but you know what? The entire institution of marriage is arbitrary and articial too, now isn’t it? And you know why gays are so desperate to be married? Legally, that is? Because it comes with tax benefits and a bunch of other money-saving kind of things that are designed to help families overcome the extra costs associated with children. Since I don’t believe that gays should be raising children, I don’t support gay marriage. To be fair, by the way, I don’t believe that single parents should be attempting to raise children either.
One thing I’d like to add: most people who are “progressive” and support culture-raping policies like gay marriage are usually anti-religion and say things like, “to believe in God you have to make all sorts of crazy rationalizations lol!!” But then when I ask them a simple question about what’s best for the children, they start making wild rationalizations about how it really is OK to let pretty much any kind of crazy family situation raise children, despite volumes of evidence to the contrary, not to mention basic common sense.
Oh, and when you’re done professing your support of women playing on men’s professional sporting teams, please also espouse your support of Warren Jeffs. Polygamists have rights, too, you know. Marriage shouldn’t be restricted to only two people. Oh wait? That’s right, polygamy isn’t mainstream, isn’t a progressive issue, and is diluted by the fact that it’s religiously motivated (despite the fact that marriage is unilateraly a religious institution anyway). Therefore, fuck Warren Jeffs, but gay marriage? Hell yeah!
Are you f’ing kidding me?
Emergency rooms typically use a “rape kit” to collect evidence for use by police and prosecutors. It consists of microscope slides, boxes and plastic bags for storing skin, hair, blood, saliva or semen gathered by a specially trained nurse. The victim’s injuries are also photographed.
What makes a Jane Doe rape kit different is that it is sealed with only a number on the outside of the envelope to identify the victim. Police do not open the envelope unless the victim decides to press charges.
I see. Let’s read on. Let’s see if you can connect the dots on this:
“The idea is to collect the evidence now, while it’s still there,” said Scott Berkowitz, president of the national Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
The new requirement applies only to adult victims. Hospitals and doctors must still report incest or abuse involving children to the police.
In Cecil County, local authorities started offering Jane Doe kits four years ago, after a rape victim recanted. Anne Bean, clinical director for a rape and sexual assault counseling program in Cecil County, said giving women the option of keeping police out of it until they are ready to press charges is crucial.
God damnit I hate this country sometimes.
So, after a night of consensual sex a girl decides to go get one of these kits done (for free, I might add). She seals it up in a pretty little envelope and gets her number. She then comes home to the man she slept with and the monologue goes like this:
Hi honey, I’m home from getting my forensic Jane Doe rape kit drawn. There is now physical evidence on file that you raped me including a preserved DNA sample with your semen. So, things around here are going to change. Namely, you’re going to do whatever I want, when I want. You are going to give me however much money I want, when I want. If you piss me off – or god forbid, try to break it off with me – I’ll just decide to ‘come forward’ with my Jane Doe rape kit and press charges. How does 5-7 in Riker’s sound? I didn’t think so. Now, do my laundry and give me $100. That’s a boy. God Bless America!
The fact that men would sign this legislation blows my freaking mind. As if this entire rape circus isn’t bad enough already.
This is where your tax dollars are going. Hillary 2008!
I was in Shanghai and Beijing in October 2006 and even then the Chinese were plugging the Olympics so hard. They are more into the fact that the Olympic Committee gave them 2008 than Americans were when we landed on the moon 40 years ago.
Now as we get closer to it and the evil Western press is criticizing China’s oppressive control of Tibet, millions of Chinese are crying about how it’s propoganda and we’re out to sabotage their divine right to host the Olympics, etc. etc.
First: the Olympics are a western tradition that we have extended globally so that the gold medal winners really are the best, not just the best in one hemisphere. Second, the fanfare surrounding the Beijing decision in China is really because of the statement that it makes. The western world has accepted China as worthy of hosting a spectacular international event that requires giant organization and huge money. This is why they are so happy. China is finally part of the club after years of treading water in a sea of socialist bullshit.
But guess what kids: you got the cake, now eat it too. The western press isn’t doing anything to you that they don’t do to each other and themselves every day of the week. If you want to be part of the western club, you have to accept western media scruitny. Every little bullshit thing that might be considered scanadalous or “wrong” in the sense that it has grown to mean among newspaper editors is going to be front page news and no, they won’t portray you very nicely. America is the leader of the free world and the international press runs cartoons of him featuring devil’s horns and writes scathing policy reviews weekly.
This is the price of being accepted to the club guys. If you want the honor of hosting a western tradition you’re going to have to suffer the microscope of the western press. If not, why not just tell us to fuck off and seal your borders like Kim Jong Il?
Now, Tibet? Who cares. Every nation on the planet has skeletons in its closet. No government is perfect, and some people who supposedly want to be “free” aren’t – it’s a fact of life. If I were China I’d let Tibet govern themselves, but China probably has nuclear missile silos in the mountains of Tibet, so that probably explains why they won’t let them go for a long long time.
So, if you’re a Chinese citizen worried about the press saying mean things about the Chinese government or its people – don’t sweat it. I’m an American citizen and the newspapers and CNN don’t agree with me politically, so they mock me and my beliefs every minute of the day. They also mock the government I helped to elect. In your case, you guys don’t even have any control of who your leaders are so it should be even less personal.
If you haven’t figured it out already: the press is bullshit. Don’t listen to a word they say.
If you can tell, lately I’ve been on an “exploring atheism” trip – not in the sense that I want to be one, more like, what is it that motivates someone to either start at, or descend to atheism from at a minimum agnosticism. This exploration has led me to a lot of young angsty blogs. I find a common characteristic among atheists is they almost universally have a bleak outlook on the secular world, but this appears to stem from a deep seated bleak outlook for their own personal futures.
At the same time, a certain someone I know has a certain younger sister whose angsty antics have nothing to do with atheism but certainly seem to portray a rather bleak outlook on things. In her case she seems determined to shoot herself in the foot to prove a point (or something like that).
Unfortunately all of these problems – and they can’t be described as anything other than problems – stem from a total lack in understanding by the population of America about how to be Happy. I’ve talked about this a number of times before because it’s an issue that keeps surfacing and is just so darn important. Even the people who are by their own accounts Happy seem to be either unwilling – or as I think is much more probable – incapable of passing this information in a useful, digestable form to the next generation.
A big part of this, I think, stems for the abandonment of religion. I don’t want to get into this debate here becuase it’s not the forum, but even if your views about things like the Bible are that it’s all a fairy tale and it was written by humans, I think everyone can agree that the book makes an honest effort to impart wisdom about how best to live a life lived in a culture based on the cultural foundation of scripture (minus the stuff we don’t agree with today like slavery and all the nasty Old Testamant wrathful God stuff). Psalms, anyone? I’ve written about proverbs before.
We’ve lost all that… and young people who damn the Bible and all religion want to throw it all out. But what do they replace it with?
Happiness is no small task. Most intelligent people ask themselves hundreds or thousands of questions about everything. Why is this done the way it’s done, why should I believe this, why is marijuana legal but alcohol isn’t, why do so many people get divorced, is gay marriage good or bad… and it goes on and on and on. Again, you can say what you want about certain individual teachings of religion (any religion, pick one) and chances are you won’t agree to 100% of their doctrines, but if you figure, okay, 90% of the stuff that your religion teaches sounds pretty good. And if you try to live by those principles, chances are you’ll have a decent and fulfilling life.
But these days? Yeah right, that’s about the last thing on our minds.
But even if you worship at the church of logic, rationality, and stalwartly demand that 100% of everything you believe could hold up to a peer review in Science magazine, perhaps especially if you do, you would have to concede that the sum of thousands of years of human experience about how to live is probably a better compendium about living than whatever you hobble together in piecemeal fashion from whatever scarce sources that are out there (like this blog?). Right?
This isn’t a plug for becoming religious, this is just an observation. Why are so many young people so depressed and angsty? Why do they think life is so plain awful? When you consider that an off-the-cuff estimate suggests that about 99.9% of human beings who are currently living or have ever lived would trade places with you without a second thought, this is an especially alarming trend.
Is it even a trend? I don’t know. I think all young people get angsty at one point in their lives or another, and probably the really angsty ones are the most likely to put it out there on the internet, but still. I see an awful lot of Fight Club attitudes around and I wish I didn’t.
My advice to all young people, including myself, is this: relax. Life isn’t as bad as it seems, and there’s a pretty decent chance that in five years, everything you thought you knew was wrong. Give the advice of older folks more attention than you do. They were teenagers once too, you know. And as far as all you burgeoning atheists, the same goes to you – what you think you know now doesn’t mean anything. Try to keep an open mind; you might be surprised.