flewellyn: (Default)
So, here's something I don't get.

I've seen numerous news stories about various far-right groups and politicians decrying the entrance of refugee children into our country, screaming about how they are a threat to us, and how they're not our problem and should be sent back to the horrible poverty and violence that they're fleeing. I've seen commenters on various news sites and conservative blogs even cheering and crowing about the fact that many children have been drowning trying to cross the Rio Grande. I've seen video of protestors screaming "Not our kids, not our problem!" and "Go back where you came from!"

No doubt, most of the people saying these things would define themselves as good Christians.

Yet, if these children were unborn fetuses, these self-same "good Christians" would be all for doing whatever it took to prevent the women pregnant with them from having any access to abortion, no matter how dire the woman's circumstances of health or poverty, and insist upon using the power of the state to intervene to "protect" the fetuses. Because that's "pro-life".

But, apparently, there's nothing about cheering at the deaths of refugee children that is not "pro-life".

I mean, unless it comes down to the fact that what we have here are a group of people who are motivated only by loyalty to their own in-group, and virulent mistrust and hatred of anyone who is not like them or does not conform to their narrow and primitive view of how the world "should" work and how people "should" live. It would seem a large segment of the American public is basically living, mentally and culturally, in the early Iron Age, and has no rationally-based ethical or moral framework on which to judge reality.

...Nah. Couldn't be that, right? Right?
flewellyn: (Default)
You folks ever heard that song "The Christmas Shoes"? Contemporary Christian light rock song from 2000, by some group called "NewSong", that I only know about from an episode of the Nostalgia Chick. And while I like the Nostalgia Chick, I almost think I was happier not knowing about this song.

In case you haven't heard this song, or heard of it... It's an "inspirational" contemporary Christian song about a man who is doing his Christmas shopping, not feeling the spirit of the season, when he spies a little boy ahead of him in line, trying to buy some pretty women's shoes. The boy doesn't have quite enough, and he starts crying and says he wants to buy the shoes for his dying mother, so she can feel pretty before she dies. And the singer buys the shoes for the boy, who then runs home, while the guy sings that "God must have sent that little boy to remind me what Christmas is all about."

Sounds like regular Christmasy glurge, but if you look deeper, you get into some really dark and awful ideas. Truth be told, I have nothing but contemptuous rage for the sort of theology that this song espouses. Without the last bit, it'd just be a bit of "I did what I could to help someone in pain, and it reminded me that I was losing sight of the true meaning blah blah blah," and that'd be fine. Saccharine, but fine.

But the last verse is where I go from "oh, come on already" to "GRAAAAAAH RAGEFLIP A TABLE!" Seriously, what it's saying is, "God sent this little boy with his horrible, traumatic parental death and his sad, pathetic attempt at a materialistic token of affection, to remind ME, yes, ME, what Christmas is all about. God put suffering in this child's life to teach ME a lesson!"

Seriously, dude thinks that God, the purported CREATOR of the FUCKING UNIVERSE, who apparently is all good and all loving and all knowing, chose to deliberately send horror into the life of this innocent child just so he, the beardy guy warbling this song, could learn a valuable lesson?! Never mind that any god which did so would be an EVIL god, unworthy of human worship, but who the FUCK are you, Mr NewSong Lead Singer Guy? What about YOU warrants the personal attention of the Creator of All Things, especially to teach you the sort of lesson you could get off any Hallmark card, and ESPECIALLY especially when the means of teaching you is killing an innocent woman, leaving this boy without his mother?!

Of all the narcissistic, entitled, myopic, egotistically masturbatory...AAAAAARGH! I HATE YOU CHRISTMAS SHOES SINGER AND I HOPE YOUR BEARD CATCHES FIRE WHILE YOU'RE TRYING TO GIVE YOURSELF CONGRATULATORY SELF-FELLATIO AND YOU DIE IN AN OUROBOROS OF ONANISTIC COMBUSTION!!!!

*ahem* So, yeah. Doesn't please me very much.

Nostalgia Chick's review is funny, though:

http://blip.tv/nostalgia-chick/nostalgia-chick-the-christmas-shoes-5810388
flewellyn: (Default)
So, foreclosures. They're happening a lot, a lot more than they should, and for bad reasons. We all know this.

I came upon this story here, in which a group of Occupy Atlanta people set up camp on the lawn of a police officer whose home is being foreclosed upon, to try and block the eviction. I applaud this move and any like it. But, it seems, the commenters were not all of the same mind.

I noted a number of posters complaining about this as somehow immoral, allowing people to "live in homes they haven't paid for" or something like that. Two things I have to say in response.

First, we know that the banks have been engaging in widespread fraudulent foreclosures. We know that the banks have engaged in fraudulent mortgage lending, and fraudulent securitizing of known high-risk mortgages. Given this fact, ANY foreclosure in today's economic and regulatory circumstances is highly suspect. So, why do they want to blame the victims, instead of the perpetrators? I suspect the "just world" fallacy, but I can't entirely rule out less savory mindsets.

Second, it is in society's best interests to keep people in their homes. Foreclosure should be a last resort, not a routine action, and loan modification, restructuring, payment assistance, even forgiveness of debt in extreme hardship are all preferable and very supportable actions by the banks, or by the government. Kicking people out of their homes and disrupting their lives is bad for society at large, and constitutes a much greater moral hazard than "letting" people "get away with" not repaying the full mortgage, if they are truly unable.

So, in closing, I say that this moralizing about "rules are rules" and "how dare someone get away with this" is entirely misguided. Contracts are not the highest moral law, and in fact, it is often necessary to abrogate them, and to forgive debts, when the social and economic landscape has become too unbalanced. The mentality that those less fortunate who need help are "getting away with" anything is highly immoral.
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So, this election's been a mixed bag, but there have been some serious setbacks for progressives, and for the Democratic Party (which I note, right here, are not synonymous). The Democrats held on to many seats, but lost some others that seemed like easy victories. In particular, I'm thinking of longtime Democratic representative Earl Pomeroy, of North Dakota, who has done a great deal of good for the state, losing to a slimy, bullying, lying, dishonorable scumbag named Berg. And, in Kentucky, Rand Paul, libertarian asshat and employer of the head-stomping asshat Tim Profitt, beat Conway in what should have been a slam dunk for the Democrats.

The Democratic Party and the media are no doubt gearing up to assign blame already. The media, predictably, will say that this means America is a conservative nation and blah blah blah, more bullshit that they spout. Well, that'll be a mixed bag, because some (MSNBC and CNN) will try to analyze, while FOX will merely propagandize. The problem is, MSNBC and CNN will promptly pick up FOX's propaganda, being lazy. In the media, at least, Yeats remains right: the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

But the media may say whatever. The real issue I have, and am going to have, is with what the Democratic leadership will say. I know what they will say, because they always do. They will blame their base for not supporting them, castigate progressives for being "purists" and not getting out the vote enough. They will do anything but look at themselves.

This election is YOUR problem, DNC. And it's yours too, President Obama. The problem, as always, is that the Democratic Party does not understand why the Republicans are successful when their party platform is antithetical to the best interests of the general public. The GOP, whatever its faults (and boy, are there lots!), understands rule number one of any party strategy: whatever happens, keep the base happy.

As it happens, the GOP's base is composed of two groups: the plutocrats that fund them, and the reactionary fundamentalists that comprise their electorate. The GOP knows better than to publically stray from the line these two groups want them to follow, although there's plenty of indication that they mostly see the fundies as "useful idiots". Still, they make sure to throw plenty of bones to the fundies, and never publically disagree with them, much less berate them for lack of support. Republicans know that if they want to win, they must must MUST keep the base happy.

Democrats, it seems, don't understand this. The problem seems to be that the Dems believe elections are about finding "swing voters", those mythical undecided people who don't seem to favor one party or one political position over another, but are supposedly crucial to victory. One of the key traits of a "swing voter" is that this person may favor some progressive, liberal positions, but also favor conservative ideas as well.

So, what do the Democratic leadership do, in election after election? Take the party base, which is solidly progressive, for granted, and "tack right" to chase after the swing voters. Where they do this, it consistently fails, for two reasons.

First of all, I have yet to see solid evidence that "swing voters" actually exist. Of course there are people who are liberal on some issues and conservative on others; hell, I'm one of them (although the vast majority of things find me soldily in the "very liberal/progressive" camp). But, people who are genuinely undecided? Come now. In today's polarized electorate, anyone who is undecided is either uninformed, or else not paying attention. Either way, they're not going to vote at all.

Second problem, though, is the big one: the Democrats keep abandoning the base! More than that, they actually harangue the progressive base for not supporting them, even when they try to "govern from the center" and betray the progressives on election promises.

Frankly, sometimes the relationship between the DNC and progressive voter reminds me of an abusive marriage: the party keeps throwing the base under the bus, and then saying "Where you gonna go? You ain't got nobody but me!" Perhaps this needs to change.
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Some time ago, I left a comment on a thread on Shakesville in which I outlined my observations of a certain type of debator, who is often found on the internet. This is the particularly precious kind of mansplainer who, not merely content to assume he knows better than women, assumes he knows better than everyone. About everything. I referred to this type as a "pseudosopher".

Some friends of mine have since told me I should post about it here. So, here is a somewhat edited version of that comment, in which I describe this strange and infuriating sort of person.

Pseudosophers are endemic on the internet. They are, in my experience, almost exclusively (cis-)male, so I describe them here with male pronouns. They are also mostly white, middle or upper class, and almost always heterosexual; often, they are atheists who used to belong to fundamentalist or conservative Christian sects. I have observed one or two who are Orthodox Jews, however, so the common thread here is fundamentalist thinking, rather than a particular religion or lack thereof.

The pseudosopher is an intelligent but unwise thinker who has bought into his own hype that he heard from parents and teachers about how "you're so smart, you can do anything!", and actually believes that being clever and rational is enough to carry the day. In doing so, he has fallen victim to a most debilitating memetic contagion. A pseudosopher is smart, though never quite as smart as he thinks he is, but also arrogant, often suffering from entitlement poisoning, and exceptionally lazy in some ways. Specifically, lazy in the sense that, while he may well put a great deal of effort into learning things that interest him, he will make the mistake of believing that the facility with which he acquires a decent layperson's knowledge of a particular subject equates with actual expertise. He may well have a field in which he is genuinely expert, commonly some form of science or engineering (computer science and IT are rife with them), but pride or intellectual laziness will make him reject the notion that this does not magically make him expert at all things.

A pseudosopher will also express a great veneration for logic and reasoning, purporting rationality and cold, logical discourse to be the highest and most important forms of intellectual pursuit and inquiry. Of course, he disparages emotion and empathy as silly and irrational, and thus unworthy of consideration. He will insist that he is always logical and rational, and deny that his emotions have anything to do with any conclusions he ever reaches, or anything he ever says to someone about anything, even while he transparently manipulates people around him in order to satisfy his (often woefully immature) emotional needs. He often believes, in particular, that women are inherently emotional, and thus unable to reason properly; since he believes reason to be the pinnacle of humanity, this naturally translates into thinking of women as lesser beings. In debates, he will resort to all sorts of fallacies while maintaining that, because he knows the names of those fallacies, he obviously cannot commit them; attempting to point them out to him will result in him becoming enraged and calling you "irrational" and "emotional", missing the irony completely.

This veneration of logic and reason above all else, of course, ties back into the laziness issue: because one can construct a valid argument from any set of premises, provided one uses the proper logical rules to reach a conclusion, the pseudosopher will treasure the ability to assume any number of absurd and insane ideas, and then proceed from those completely bogus premisese to a "logical" conclusion. In reality, as we all know, logic is useless without empirical observation; it is from those observations that we glean true premises, on which we can then build sound logical arguments, based not only in proper use of the rules of logic, but in actual fact as well. But, since that takes work, the pseudosopher prefers to simply look for existing memes (or invent new ones, though often that's also too much work) which suit his biases, adopt those as his "facts", and then base all of his careful logical arguments on them, regardless of their actual truth.

The final piece of the puzzle, of course, is entitlement, often accompanied by a large dose of paranoia. A pseudosopher generally believes that, because he is smart, he should automatically be successful, wealthy, powerful, beloved by the opposite sex (pseudosophers are almost never gay!), and so on. The fact that he is not these things, or if he is, not to the extent he believes he deserves, is never due to anything wrong with him; the cause, of course, is some external factor, often a conspiratorial group or political or social movement for which he has some preexisting antipathy. While some do go so far as to blame the Illuminati or aliens or something, most confine their paranoid delusions to actually existing targets: feminists, liberals, "the government", and organized religion are common culprits.

I've found that pseudosophers often gravitate towards Libertarianism as a political philosophy, because it appeals to all of these traits: it's a very logic-based, axiomatic philosophy, whose core principles are not based in empirical observation but are simply meant to be assumed true; it's a very good vehicle for paranoia, because the Libertarian pseudosopher can simply blame the government for any and all personal misfortunes or societal ills; it appeals to his sense of entitlement, because of its emphasis on property as the most fundamental right and the evils of people taking from him the fruits of his labor in the form of taxes, which he views not as the price of civilization but an onerous burden from which he derives no benefit (or none that he will acknowledge); and, because it's politically an "out-group", it allows him to claim persecuted "underdog" status without having to commit to any actually unpopular or risky political stances, or suffer any actual hardship.

(That said, I should add that you see a number of these types manifesting in radical socialist, Marxist groups as well. And, might I add, for the same reasons.)

The cure for this pernicious memetic disease is to somehow impart to the sufferer a sense of humility, coupled with at least a measure of empathy. Unfortunately, most of the pseudosophers I have met have been completely unreachable, as they don't even speak the same language as the rest of us. What they use will resemble English, but (especially if they are Libertarians or hardcore Marxists) with many common words redefined into "terms of art" that mean not what the rest of the English-speaking world mean, but what they want them to mean. They will not tell you that this is the case, of course, as this would both require effort, and some degree of empathy on their part, to realize that their understanding of something is not universal truth. Instead, they will mock you for not understanding them, while continuing to spout intellectual-sounding pronouncements that, on analysis, either make no Earthly sense whatsoever, or are utterly repugnant and unsupportable.

The best cure is prevention: instilling a healthy level of introspection and self-criticism, while maintaining a good level of praise for actual ability and accomplishment, along with emphasizing the need to understand the mental and emotional states of other human beings, is the only means I know to prevent infection. This is mostly a job for parents and teachers, not participants in an internet discussion, so to the latter, I advise only awareness, and perhaps a certain level of detached amusement.
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So, as just about everybody has probably heard, United States judge Vaughn Walker overturned the bigoted and small-minded Proposition 8 in California, which rebanned same-sex marriage. I need not link to news articles on the subject, I'm quite sure everyone can find them all over the internet.

Nor do I need to announce that the right-wing hate machine is already screaming and crying over the supposed evils of this ruling, denouncing it as "overturning the will of the people" and "legislating from the bench". Of course they did. And of course there was the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth about immoral behavior and blah blah blah biased judge blah blah blah family values and all that crap. I'm not posting to rehash all of that.

One thing I did note about the objections, however, is something I've seen repeatedly from the fundamentalist conservative camp on all kinds of issues of social justice and equality. Look at the tirades that the bigots unleash, and you'll find a common thread: they repeatedly will say something along the lines of "This is not normal!" Or "they're trying to make it seem normal!" Or "You can't pretend that that should be normal!"

Normal. Normal normal normal. It's like a watchword with these people. They cling to it like a security blanket. If something is normal, to them, it's good. And if it's not normal, it must be forced to conform or eliminated.

Now, that's nothing new, I know. It's long since become a cliche among progressives to respond with "What is normal, anyway?"* But, honestly, I don't think that's a useful response. Because honestly? Normal as a concept does exist, and have meaning. Statistically and colloquially, it means the most typical set of behaviors or traits in a population. It's true that everyone is different, but commonalities exist, patterns and trends emerge, and we can indeed see that some things, some ways of being, are more common than others. And people know this.

So, when progressives say "What is normal?" or "There's no such thing as normal!" in retort to these people who so fetishize conformity, it's not really much of a retort.

I think it would be more useful, instead, to say to the people who harp on normality, "Why is normal good? Why is the most common way of being, the right one? Surely you're not suggesting that morality is a matter of majority opinion, are you?" The difference here is, rather than deny the existence of something that clearly exists (the concept of normal), we are instead questioning a connection which is not at all clear.

There is no logical reason to suppose that the typical, and the good, are at all related; in fact, the existence of institutional racism, sexism, classism, religious bigotry, and other hierarchical biases indicate to me that what is normal in society is quite often harmful.

The people I find who harp on normality as a good in itself, I note, are often Christians, or profess to be. At least in this country, that's predominantly the case. In such cases, I might remind them of a short passage from their holy book, namely Exodus 23:2: "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil."










* I usually respond with "It's a small town in central Illinois, next to Bloomington. My sister was born there." While this is irrelevant, it does point out the absurdity.
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Just thinking to myself tonight about how to boil down my problems with evolutionary psychology. It could have been a promising field! Really! It's just...as it is, it produces massive amounts of USDA Prime Grade bullshit.

Here, I think, is the chain of logic, boiled down to essentials:
  1. Human brains evolved. (Right! We know that.)
  2. Human psychology is a product of human neurology. (Makes sense.)
  3. Therefor, human psychology must have evolved in concert with our neurology. (Okay so far...)
  4. In evolution, traits which are adaptive (or neutral) tend to survive, while traits which are maladaptive tend not to survive. (Again, not controversial.)
  5. Human psychology definitely counts as a trait, if not many. (Fair enough...)

  6. Here's where they go off the deep end...

  7. Therefor, human psychological traits must, on the whole, be adaptive. (Well, hang on a second, all of them? Some might not be neutral or even maladaptive? And what about cultural influence? Hey, are you listening?!)
  8. Therefor, all behaviors that we observe in current human populations MUST have been adaptive traits that carry over from our savanna-dwelling ancestors, and biologically determined! Cultural norms of today are of course adaptive traits, and therefor there's no point in trying to change them! (Wait, WHAT?!)


See, they're doing fine up until that second-to-last step. Nicely reasonable premises that square with well-established science. Then suddenly it's VROOM! Straight over the cliff and into a huge sea of unfalsifiable hypotheses and "just-so" stories, transparently trying to justify current cultural norms as unchangeable biological imperatives. They routinely ignore cultural variation, both between contemporary cultures and within a single culture over time. They also ignore the enormous plasticity of the human brain, especially in childhood, and its ability to adapt itself to many different environmental conditions, on a time scale many orders of magnitude faster than evolution operates. And they tend to show a rather poor understanding of evolution; I am not a biologist, but what I do know on the subject tells me that this "cave-man psychology" thinking is woefully uninformed. I have read essays by actual biologists on the subject who make precisely that charge.

And it's surely a coincidence that the evolutionary psychologists who engage in such speculation are almost exclusively white men, and they spend an awful lot of time trying to justify problematic societal attitudes towards women and minorities, right? Right?

The frustrating thing is, up through step 5, it does sound like an intriguing field of inquiry. It really would be fascinating to learn more about how and why the overarching structure and function of our pscyhes formed, and how that influences our cultural development today. But the way they're doing it now, producing the neuropsychological equivalent of "How the Leopard Got His Spots"? That's not science. That's just pseudoscientific onanism.
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Sara Robinson of Orcinus wrote an excellent summary of the terrorist activities of the radical right-wing, which have averaged one attack on American citizens every two weeks since January 20th. The campaign by the far-right against mainstream America, against every enemy they imagine themselves to have, has been relentless, and it has been openly encouraged, or at least condoned by the conservatives in the media, halfhearted condemnations to the contrary.

Conservatives in general do not, I believe, approve of such things; that is to say, I don't believe everyone in America who self-identifies as conservative, or even the majority of them, would look upon any of these attacks with anything but horror. But to hear the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, and company tell it, these extremists are part and parcel of the mainstream of the Republican party. After each attack, they have shed a few crocodile tears, while continuing to insist that the rhetoric they spout, the rhetoric the extremist terrorists themselves use as their justification, is completely unconnected to the rapid upswing in violence. Yet they do nothing to try and actually discourage the extremists; if anything, they intensify their hateful rhetoric.

Well, we can add another attack to the tally. Three people connected with the anti-immigration group Minuteman American Defense invaded the home of a Mexican-American family and shot and killed two people, a 9 year old girl and her father. The motive is obvious: these people hate immigrants, especially Mexicans. The entire purpose of their movement is to "protect" America from the "menace" of Mexicans coming into our country.

It's a refrain we've heard a great deal from right-wing media pundits such as the aforementioned Limbaugh, Hannity, Malkin, Coulter, et al. And yet we are expected to believe that the mainstreaming of extreme right-wing hatred in our national discourse has no connection to the upswing in extreme right-wing violence.

I'm not buying it anymore. As far as I am concerned, the talking heads in the media who spout rhetoric that is used to justify domestic terrorism, are themselves guilty of aiding and abetting. Freedom of expression doesn't make it okay.
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Admiral Hopper was, among other things, the first woman to achieve a flag rank in the United States Navy, oldest officer in the Navy when she retired, and the inventor of the programming language compiler (and the assembler before it). She was a pioneer in the field of computer science, and without her, we would not have the software we do today.

A compiler is a program which translates software from the language it's programmed in, an abstract and more easily understood language than raw machine code, into the raw machine code that computers understand. Or, more accurately, into assembly language, which is a mnemonic representation of that machine code. Assemblers then translate the mnemonic language into machine code.

At the time Hopper came up with the concept, working at Remington Rand in the 1950s, programming was done in raw machine code. Then-Lieutenant Commander Hopper wondered if it might be possible to program in a more natural langauge, and worked on writing software which would translate mnemonic representations for machine code into the raw bit patterns that the computer would execute: the first assembler. This led to her creating the first compiler for a programming language that she created: A-0. It was by our standards a very low-level language, not very abstract by comparison to today's programming languages, but the important thing was that she'd realized her idea: the machine could be programmed using a language other than its raw machine code.

This breakthrough led to her work on other, more advanced programing languages, and paved the way for the invention of the first higher-level languages, FORTRAN, LISP, and COBOL. Hopper went on to work on the standardization of COBOL in the 1960s and 70s, working for the Navy Programming Languages group. In the process, she was promoted to Commander, and then Captain.

Her other major contribution to the field of computer science and information technology, was promoting the idea of standards for testing computer equipment and software, which led to the creation of the National Bureau of Standards, today known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Hopper was promoted to Commodore by a special Presidential appointment in 1983, in honor of her achievements. This rank no longer exists: it was converted to "Rear Admiral, Lower Half" in 1985, making Hopper the first woman to achieve an admiralty rank. When she retired in 1986, she was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, highest non-combat award in the US armed forces, in a ceremony aboard the USS Constitution. She was the oldest officer in the Navy (79), aboard the oldest ship in the Navy (commissioned under George Washington).

Hopper is honored by the Association for Computing Machines with their annual "Grace Murray Hopper Award for Outstanding Young Computer Professionals", which was first given in 1971 to Donald Knuth. She also has an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer named after her, the USS Hopper, and was the first woman to be made a distinguished fellow of the British Computer Society in 1973.

Aside from pioneering new ideas, one of the things she was best known for was education. She was known for telling fascinating stories about the early days of computing, including popularizing the term "bug" to relate to a software or hardware defect: Hopper and her associates found a moth stuck in a relay of the Mark II computer at Harvard, which she taped into the log book with the wry note "First actual case of a bug being found."

She would also, at lectures, pass out lengths of wire just under a foot long, which she called "nanoseconds", the length being the distance light would travel in one nanosecond. This was a useful visual aid for people wondering why satellite communication took so long. She would contrast these small lengths with a 1000 foot coil of wire, which represented a microsecond.

I've always found Admiral Hopper a fascinating person, both for her amazing accomplishments, and for the fact that she achieved these things beginning in an era when few women were able to achieve professional distinction due to prejudice, much less serve in the US military. She paved the way for many women to follow her, and had a large part in creating the digital world we now live in.
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I was browsing through the Onion's archives, looking for an old article that I wanted to reread, when I came across this little story:

Study: 38 Percent Of People Not Actually Entitled To Their Opinion

I won't quote it all here, mostly for reasons of copyright and fair use; the critical quote is this: "On topics from evolution to the environment to gay marriage to immigration reform, we found that many of the opinions expressed were so off-base and ill-informed that they actually hurt society by being voiced".

Funny? Sure it is. But it's the kind of thing you laugh at uncomfortably, because it's a truth many of us don't want to admit.

Now, as a progressive, liberal type, I do believe in the principle that everyone should have the right to express their informed, considered opinions. But I think the key words there are "informed" and "considered". Too many people today (it might even be as large as 38%, I have no idea) think that they can just spout off on whatever, without actually knowing anything about it. Not incidentally, many of them are Bush voters, but I'm certain we've all seen them on all sides of the political arena.

And in the press, of course. $DEITY help us, the press, especially the cable news media and the Washington press corps, are FULL of these sorts of people, who feel no compunction about substituting their whims for facts, or polling themselves and their pundit friends and calling that the will of the people. I think that's the part that frightens me the most about this age, not that there are so many ignorant people out there, but that the ignorant and vapid are in charge.

We're faced with a system in which the news media, charged with the most important task in a democratic republic, finding out the truth about the world, has absolutely no interest in doing that job. They would rather manufacture stories than seek them out, rather opine from their mountaintop than actually figure out what's really important to the rest of the country or the world.

How did this happen? Well, others have written more cogently, and at great length, about how the Republican party and its corporate backers have spent the last 30 years taking over the national media and consolidating it into a sanitized machine for expressing their will rather than the truth; I'm not going to repeat all that here, I wouldn't do it any justice. But I think, to some extent, we progressives allowed this to happen, by not fighting it when we saw it.

We adopted, for the best of reasons and out of the purest intentions, the principle that everyone is entitled to an opinion, and everyone's entitled to a voice, and if someone says something which is not just objectionable, but factually incorrect, we should challenge what they say, but not their right to say it. If someone habitually speaks falsely, or just spouts outright gibberish, we should refute it, but not tell them to shut up or refuse to listen to them. It's a great principle, and in many cases it's workable. But it only works as long as the forum in which we do this discussion and refutation is not under hostile control.

That's not the case anymore. For various reasons, we didn't recognize the neoconservative movement for what it was, didn't realize that they were not just presenting alternative ideas but trying to rewrite the national discourse to suit themselves. We didn't understand that they had no interest in a genuine meeting of the minds, coming to some kind of consensus, but sought our destruction, and that any concessions they made were not compromise, but temporary retreat. In the face of the wholesale takeover of the media by regressive and reactionary forces, the government's near-total takeover by the far right, and the near-total dismantling of the progressive institutions and protections we once spent over a century to build, we must reexamine the idea that everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Certainly, the Onion is being satirical, but I think they're expressing a truth that progressives need to own, and need to present to the world: a person is not entitled to an uninformed, ignorant opinion. In order to be worth listening to, that person needs to demonstrate that he or she actually knows something about the subject, and has considered the issue sufficiently. And if we're confronted with people who are not just misguided, or misinformed, but unwilling to learn and hellbent on spreading harmful memes, we must be willing to do more than simply refute what they say. We must challenge their qualifications to say it, and refuse to allow them to dominate the discourse.

I'm not advocating government censorship here; what I call for is both safer and more effective. What we must do is socially censor these fools, by making it clear that they are fools, and that we won't suffer them gladly. We have to be willing to say, not just "I disagree", but "You are wrong, you are speaking falsely". We need not tolerate intolerance, and we need not grapple logically with illogic. Sometimes, we need to do the only thing these people deserve: we need to say "Shut up and sit down."
flewellyn: (Default)
So, I was reading a forum today, I forget where, and happened upon a debate about human evolution. Specifically, it was about various behaviors you see in humans, and whether they were adaptive behaviors, or arose from cultural influences. Yet another incarnation of the old "nature vs. nurture" argument, in other words.

The problem I have with these arguments is that they imply a disparity that does not exist. I submit that culture is our collection of evolved adaptive instincts. Humans have three traits, three defining behaviors, that make up our evolutionary bag of tricks: language skills, tool use, and social structure. These three things are what make up a culture, and give humans our uniqueness.

The individual traits are hardly unique to humans, of course! Many animals use sounds to communicate, many animals use tools, and there are lots of social animals as well. However, only a few animals have all three (primates and cetaceans), and only humans have taken those three and made them the entire survival strategy of the species. We have no other mechanisms BUT these three behaviors for adapting to an environment: no natural weapons, no camouflage, no protective coverings, zip. Physically, our bodies are extremely generic, and it's only through language, tools, and socializing that we survive and thrive.

Look at how human children develop. One of the first skills babies learn, even before they can talk, is how to recognize faces. This is key to social interaction. Then they learn language, and as any child psychologist, or any parent, could tell you, children learn languages amazingly quickly, considering how complex human language really is. Then, of course, in very short order, young children start learning tool use: picking things up and messing with them to see what they can do and how they can be used.

The combination of language, tool use, and social structure, each one reinforcing the other, creates culture. Cultures, in my view, are really just collections of ideas, knowledge, and behaviors that have (mostly) proven adaptive over time; or sometimes, haven't proven maladaptive enough to be eliminated. Cultures evolve as the world changes, and as the needs of the people living in that culture change. New ideas come around and may be rejected, or if they prove adaptive (and can out-compete old ideas), may be accepted and incorporated into the culture. (Sometimes this happens fitfully, and rejected ideas can come back after they'd been abandoned, but that's an artifact of our culture-making strategy: humans have a tendency to want to hold onto ideas they learned when they were young, and sometimes this can be very hard to overcome.)

And, of course, cultures meet, and exchange ideas with each other; obviously, they also can clash with each other, or absorb each other, or one can be absorbed by another, or...well, you get the idea. Check any history book for more info.

Obviously, how people interact with the culture they live in has HUGE bearing on their survival and success, in evolutionary terms. People who, for various reasons, would not be able to survive living on their own in the wilderness (and that's most of us, folks) can have productive and meaningful lives living in their societies, fulfilling cultural needs. Traits that would doom a non-cultural animal may simply be inconvenient to a human, such as various disabilities or genetic diseases. On the other hand, cultural effects can kill people who would otherwise live, or otherwise take them out of the gene pool (monastic orders that vow celibacy, for instance).

Culture allows humans who cannot or will not have children, to still make a meaningful and lasting contribution to the species, which can in turn affect the survival and success of other humans. Through culture, we can survive and thrive in environments which are extremely hostile, and which other species from our original native home in east Africa would find completely inhospitable, if not instantly lethal. Culture gives us access to a variety of food sources enjoyed by no other species on the planet, enables us to live at population densities unmatched by nearly any other animal, and in short, gives us the ability to adapt to nearly any situation. It's the most adaptive set of behaviors any animal on this planet has ever evolved.

The entire question, then, of "nature versus nurture", with regards to human behavior, is ultimately meaningless. My answer? Nurture is our nature.
flewellyn: (Default)
So, as some of you who have read me might know, I'm rather political. I care a lot about various political causees, such as social welfare, women's rights, GLBT rights, racism, class struggle, civil liberties, and so on. This is no secret of mine, and I've never been shy about expressing my opinions.

More to the point, however, political theory and philosophy has long been a passion of mine: one of my college majors was political science, and I have been interested in not just the issues, but the fundamental mechanisms and philosophies of politics since I was a child. In that time, I've noticed a few things.

One of the things I've noticed is the tendency in our political discourse to "flatten" the broad array of political beliefs in the world into a one-dimensional "spectrum", the familiar "Left-Center-Right" spectrum. It's an hisotrical relic of the first French Revolution, and I admit, a convenient shorthand for some belief systems.

But I have come to believe very strongly that, ultimately, this "political spectrum" is a harmful mental framework. This is for several reasons.

First of all, obviously, it's limiting. The notion that political beliefs should naturally align along a one-dimensional spectrum, when talking about a four-dimensional world, does not make a great deal of sense. I have seen some efforts in the blogosphere to correct this with two-dimensional graphs, but this again is limiting, because the "dimensions" are determined by whoever frames the graph.

There is also the problem that, in the "classic" spectrum, it's not entirely clear what's being measured on the axis to begin with. The nearest I can make out is that the spectrum represents "degree of change/progress desired". That's not very helpful, to be honest; it's simultaneously vague and overly narrow.

But the real problem, the reason that I hauled out "Considered Harmful" for the title of this essay, is this: I believe the political "spectrum" gives bad ideas too much legitimacy.

Schools of political thought such as orthodox Marxism, anarchism, fascism, ultranationalism, fundamentalism, and such, are simply placed on a "spectrum" as "left" or "right", when they should be placed in the trash can of history as "just plain wrong". Similarly, legitimate schools such as democratic socialism, sociocapitalism, minarchism, noninternventionism, and such, get lumped in with these bad ideas as well. On the "left", you find a cluster of philosophies which have some few characteristics in common, but are so wildly different in most other ways that they might as well exist in separate universes; the "right" is the same, except (in my opinion) for the proportion of good ideas to bad.

The "center", of course, becomes some kind of "compromise" ground, where these philosophies are supposed to somehow melt together into some "moderate" whole, which does not make a ton of sense on its own. Consider: a political philosophy will, naturally, prescribe certain policies, and proscribe others, in order to achieve its stated goal. While it's reasonable to try synthesis of two or more philosophies, you can't do this when some of them are diametrically opposed to others. For instance, it makes very little sense to try and blend anarchism with fascism, or sociocapitalism with minarchism.

So, what do I propose, if using a spectrum, or even a two-dimensional graph, is not a good idea? Well, I believe it's more useful to discuss political philosophies according to several questions, which do not necessarily fit on any "spectrum", but at least allow a basis for comparison. The questions I ask are these: what is the goal, that is, what kind of society does this philosophy want to bring about? Who is on top in that society, and who is left out? How are resources allocated? How are decisions made, and who makes them? How flexible is this society, and how does it deal with dissidents and elements that just don't fit? Are new ideas welcomed, or suppressed? What historical examples do we have of societies that tried to embody this philosophy?

Using these questions, I think, it makes the political landscape make more sense. For instance, I can discuss the difference between a Marxist and a democratic socialist, or a sociocapitalist (think FDR for this one) versus a corporatist, or a fascist versus a fundamentalist. You can also say to someone who espouses what they term "liberal" or "conservative" beliefs, "Sorry, that doesn't mesh with my beliefs because of XYZ", rather than "well, I'm not THAT liberal/conservative". And, finally, you can say to someone "that's not leftist/right wing, that's just WRONG, and here's why."

AND, you can see parallels and similarities between groups that the traditional "spectrum" puts on opposite ends, such as Marxists and Rand-style Libertarians.
flewellyn: (Default)
So, today is Blogging For Choice day, and I thought I would talk a bit about why I am pro-choice. Those not inclined to reading political discussions can skip this entry.

Cut for lengthy essay )
flewellyn: (Default)
As my bio says, I am a computer person, in much the same way I am an oxygen-using person. Computers and programming and technology in general fascinate me, so naturally I care a great deal about what goes on in the computer world.

One of the up-and-coming ideas, currently being advanced by the RIAA and MPAA, those same paragons of consumer advocacy that brought us the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, is Digital Rights Management, or DRM. Also known in the free software community as "Digital Restrictions Mangement", this technology is intended as a set of hardware-based cryptographic tools which will allow the computer to verify that the user is actually authorized to use certain content. In other words, a CD or DVD would be encrypted, and unless your DRM chip could verify that you had a legit copy, you couldn't use it.

Obviously, this has some people rather upset. It's a very domineering tactic, and among other things, makes it so that you no longer own the computer you buy, or the CDs or DVDs. You would use them only in the way that large, monolithic corporate interests want you to, and they could have complete control over what you were allowed to view and listen to on your computer.

At least, that's the idea. There is one teensy little problem with DRM: there is no way it could actually work.

I am not a cryptographic expert (amateur enthusiast at best), but to me the problem boils down to one of key distribution. It's very easy to build cryptographic tools, open source or not, without compromising the security, because knowing the cypher algorithm does not necessarily help you break the encryption by itself; you need the keys, or a means of producing those keys.

Traditional cryptography, also known as symmetric key cryptography, has one key which is used for both encrypting and decrypting messages. The problem there is, symmetric key cryptography has the small problem that the same key is used for both encrypting and decrypting, which means that key has to be secret at both ends. So, if the two ends are far apart, you have this problem of sending the key to the other person; how do you get it there without it being intercepted?

The newer forms of asymmetric cryptography, called "public key" cryptography, were designed to alleviate this problem. This splits the single key into TWO keys: one for encrypting, and one for decrypting. Having the encrypting key does not allow you to decrypt messages that were encrypted with it; only the decrypting key can do that. The idea here is that, basically, you distribute the encrypting "public" key far and wide, while keeping the decrypting "secret" key to yourself. Thus, anybody can encrypt a message to the holder of the secret key, but only the holder of that key can decrypt those messages. This is a very elegant solution to the basic problem of key distribution, assuring that the messages are kept private for the intended recipient.

But here's where the problem comes in. Since it was invented, cryptography has always assumed that, while the message you encrypt may be intercepted by untrusted parties, the person you intend the message for can be trusted. DRM is about locking down content, not about ensuring privacy of messages; it flips around the usual case in cryptography by distrusting the recipients. In order to make sure content is only decryptable by authorized people, you'd have to ensure that only those authorized people had access to the keys needed to decrypt. If it's public key, asymmetric cryptography, you'd have to distribute those keys somehow to the authorized people.

And any way you do that, whether by embedding them in the content or by separately enabling them, nothing prevents those authorized people from redistributing the keys to other people! Since, in DRM, the recipient is not trusted, this means that key distribution becomes a catch-22: if you don't distribute keys, then nobody can read your content, and they have no reason to buy it; but if you do distribute keys to purchasers, then they can redistribute them, everyone can read your content, and they have no reason to buy it.

Locking down the spec for DRM, requiring it in ROM, building it into the operating system...none of these things will help. The core issue is, the keys have to exist on the recipient's machine in order to read the content, and once there, they can be discovered and put to "unauthorized" use. Granted, 9 out of 10 computer users may not have the knowhow to do this, but it only takes one or two to discover the method and propagate it. DRM as a content restriction method is doomed to fail.

The technology could be put to legitimate, useful purposes, mind you, as a way for the owner of the machine to secure it against running untrusted binaries; this would allow you to, for instance, "sign" all the programs you want to be runnable with a little authorization key, and then the computer would simply refuse to run any unsigned program. This would be a huge boon for securing a system...but for the system's owner, not some third party. That, I think, would be a very good use of built-in cryptography in a computer, and should be encouraged.

But the stone cold fact is, if you have physical access to a computer, that computer cannot be secured against you. And frankly, if you're the one who bought it, I think that's a good thing.
flewellyn: (Default)
Through [livejournal.com profile] pope_guilty, I found this blog entry, in which the author writes about his past arguments against enacting hate-crime legislation, and how he has now found convincing counterarguments which have put him squarely in the "yes, enact these laws" camp. It's a great read, and heartening to see: it's not every day someone will publically admit that they were wrong, and change their minds, AND provide the reasoning behind doing so. Good stuff.

One thing he wrote (which I agreed with) was that, under the definition of hate crime that he was using, rape was thus a hate crime. This is a good realization.

But...one of his commenters did not understand it, and replied thus:

I disagree with your construction of rape as a hate crime, because it happens regardless of gender (male-male, female-female, female-male.) It's a crime of power and domination, not hate. Perhaps self-hate... but I kind of get your point.

Umm...yeah. Where to start with this? The "it's a crime of power and domination, not hate" bit? Or the "it happens" bit, as if rape were some sort of natural event that just...oh...happens, like the weather? I had to respond.

So, in the interest of A) preserving my writings on the subject where I'll be able to find them, and B) sharing my wisdom and brilliance (yeah right) with you all, I have reproduced my response below, under the horizontal rule.




I disagree with your construction of rape as a hate crime, because it happens regardless of gender (male-male, female-female, female-male.) It's a crime of power and domination, not hate. Perhaps self-hate... but I kind of get your point.

Ah, but, since 95% of rapes reported are male perpetrator, female victim, AND rape constitutes an attack on the woman because she is a woman, I would say it definitely qualifies as a hate crime.

Men who are raped are almost always raped by other men, such as in prison settings. The lingo for this is "making him my bitch", which is a term that misogynists also use to refer to women. So...the rape of the male serves to devalue him by making him "play the woman". The viewpoint here is that women are less important, less valuable, and thus things to be used.

It is true that men can be raped outside of prison, and sometimes even by women. I myself know two men who were raped by women. However, I know hundreds of women who were raped by men. This is anecdotal, but it is borne out by the actual crime statistics: men can be raped, but they need not fear it the way women are forced to. Rape is thus a crime overwhelmingly directed at women, as a group, and qualifies as a hate crime.

Historically, and today, women have been the group of people most hated, most reviled, most oppressed, and most devalued in the world. This occurs across cultures, religions, and ethnic groups. Even minorities who have been oppressed themselves often oppress the women in their group (ask Sandra Cisneros, for instance, about how Latina women are treated by Latino men). If this doesn't make violence against women a hate crime...there is no meaning to the term.
flewellyn: (Default)
My family, growing up, was not a neat family. We weren't absolute slobs, but...oh, who am I kidding? We were absolute slobs. We kept surfaces clean for eating, and clothes clean for wearing, and dishes clean for eating off of...but that was about the sum of it. Vacuuming happened if and when my sister remembered; the garbage was taken out (by me) irregularly; clutter would pile up until somebody remembered to do something with it (usually shove it to the side); and, of course, when laundry was done, there was the inevitable debate on natural selection.

"Wait, what?" I hear you asking. (Actually, I don't, but let's just pretend, okay?) "What in the blue peeping hellacious eyes of Samuel W. Scratch does natural selection have to do with laundry?"

So glad you asked.

You see, as my father documented in his famous-among-lunatics home-taped nature documentary, the common household sock, or Hosius socka, has a rather odd lifecycle. It is mostly a parasitic organism, living its short life on the feet of wandering mammals, from which it feeds on the skin of the feet. Once it has fed, it drops off onto the ground and then begins the long, slow process of migrating across the floor, moving in a sluglike fashion, towards the hamper, at which point it jumps up and seeks out a mate in the pile. The products of this union, in turn, emerge from their nest in the dryer and then attach themselves to the nearest host, whereupon the cycle begins anew.

This process leads to a number of interesting phenomena. Obviously, the most common one is the sight of exhausted socks, flopped on the floor, pausing to catch their breath before resuming the arduous voyage. Another point of interest is the genetics: socks that mate with others of similar color will, of course, produce more of the same, but when you get socks of different colors mating, the results can be quite bizarre. I speak here, of course, of striped, polka-dotted, and multicolored socks, which arise mostly because the genes for various colorations are mostly codominant, except for the "white" gene, which is recessive. (Argyle socks, I believe, are the result of a mutation involving exposure to ionizing radiation, excessive inbreeding, and copious amounts of Scotch whiskey.) The migration, being quite an ordeal, often causes injuries to the socks, some of which can result in actual holes in the body (or "socka bifida"), which can be fatal if untreated.

However, the most interesting thing to note when discussing the migratory and mating habits of socks, and the salient point here, is naturally the question of human intervention. The arduous nature of the migration of H. socka serves to weed out the sick and old from the herd, as with many other species. If humans intervene and place the socks in the hamper directly, this removes an important selection pressure from their environment. Clearly, this would be bad for the overall health of the species. So, as my father argued in his groundbreaking (and patience-trying) documentary, the only ethical choice we have is to allow nature to take its course.

I will not repeat my mother's response to this, my father's greatest contribution to science since his seminal work Evolutionary Regression and Table Manners: Why Forks? Why?, but I will say that it was, sadly, not very scientific.
flewellyn: (Default)
I posted this on this blog, discussing the 17 year old Oregon girl who, after accusing her boyfriend and two of his friends of raping her, was convicted of filing a false police report; the apparent reasoning by the judge was that, since the prosecution couldn't find enough evidence that the rape had taken place, she was obviously lying. Several commenters on the blog proceeded to do the usual misogynist bashing of women, feminism, and the notion that rape actually happens all that often, and went off accusing women of lying about rape as often as 25% of the time.

Several other people, of course, took them to task for their nonsense, and cited actual statistics showing that the number of rape reports which turn out to be falsified is around 1.6%; nonetheless, I felt compelled to respond, thus:




Aside from the statistics cited above showing that women lie about rape charges in as few as 1.6% of reports, there is a simple, logical reason why assuming that women will lie about rape just doesn't make sense.

Look at what happens to a woman who accuses a man of raping her. Her name is dragged through the mud, her sexual history is questioned, she is slandered with all sorts of vile names by the defendant's supporters, lawyers, and by men of society at large. She is told that it was her fault, that she shouldn't have been doing whatever she was doing when her attacker raped her. She is accused of making it all up, of lying to be vengeful or (if the rapist is rich, such as Kobe Bryant) of seeking money. She faces long odds of getting a conviction; in Oregon, apparently 10% of reported rapes result in a conviction. Rape being one of the most underreported crimes there is, the real numbers are surely much higher.

She receives all kinds of "advice" from people which can be summed up as "don't have a social life, don't ever drink, don't go out of your house, and if you still get raped, it's still your fault". Her family and friends may well abandon her, or even turn against her. Her religious community may well turn their backs on her, as well.

Given all of this, what sort of logical reason would there be for women to lie about being raped? The 1.6% who apparently do, I would surmise, are probably mentally ill; otherwise, anyone sane would realize that accusing a man of rape is extremely difficult and has all kinds of social and psychological penalties, whether he is convicted or not. The man accused, or even convicted, of rape has many allies in society, many people trying to excuse what he did, or blame it all on the woman. Look at how many people today still think Desiree Washington was just a golddigger, even after Mike Tyson was, in fact, convicted.

Quite simply, sane people do not lie if there is no benefit to them in doing so. And the simple fact is, lying about rape has no benefit for women. So, given these facts...who would benefit from lying about rape? If it's not women, then who?
flewellyn: (Wild Boy of Avi's Room)
In the last month or so, I've had many friends and acquaintances, both old and new, tell me that I am "weird" or "strange" or "an odd duck". This news, I must say, I greet with the same level of astonishment as I would a revelation that the sky is, in fact, an azure hue.

In other words...duh.

I come by my oddity honestly, though. I think, in an attempt to be informative and (hopefully) entertaining, I shall provide some of the background of, well, what my family was like. This is, keep in mind, only one tale of many.

When I was a sophomore in high school (and fully bearded, I might add; the icon is from that time), it came to the attention of my mother that spaghetti noodles will stick to the wall when fully cooked. We hadn't heard about this before, and being of a scientific bent, we decided to test it one night, at the dinner table.

It happened to be Friday night, so as was traditional for my family, we had gotten a Challah, ordered Chinese (the same order every week; the lady who ran the Chinese place knew us by name), invited our friend Steve over, and made a big pot of noodles for the food. After my father had said the usual Shabbas blessings, and we'd started to eat our Challah, my mother brought up the desire to test our spaghetti for doneness.

So, she picked up a noodle in her fingers and flipped it onto the wall of the dining room. Sure enough, it stuck fast.

Now, naturally, the rest of us weren't going to miss out on this activity. So, my father, my sister, friend Steve, and then I followed suit. Of course, having just one noodle each on the walls was rather...errm...unsatisfying. So, with great deliberation, we decided to repeat the process, until, finally, after fifteen minutes or so, all four walls and the ceiling were covered with noodles.

It must be said, at this point, that the cats were very confused. "Foodlike items on the wall?" young Yitzak seemed to say as he sniffed a low-hanging noodle, "Weird!"

(One thing that isn't often said about throwing pasta on walls: if you leave it there overnight, you can flick it off the next day with no effort, and it leaves interesting grooves in the paint.)

So, that was our great pasta experiment. However, we didn't leave it at that. The ceremonial Spaghetti Toss became a weekly ritual, a part of our Shabbat experience as central to winding down the week as ordering the Chinese food or having Steve over. We continued this sacred rite for the remaining two years we lived in that house, eventually having to just strip the paint and redo it when we moved out.

What can I say? We're a bunch of pastacephalics.
flewellyn: (Default)
It's been in the news a lot these days, this "intelligent design" debate, the notion that somehow, evolution fails to properly explain the diversity and complexity of life on Earth, and that some intelligent designer must have put it together. Of course, the proponents don't explicitly say which "designer" they mean, but it's all too obvious: the creationists are back in town, and just as annoying as ever.

But putting aside the obnoxious religious proselytizing and the chicanery of the ID crowd, what does the "theory" of intelligent design actually explain that evolution does not? More to the point, I thought, what kinds of things are easily explained through evolution, but utterly inexplicably if one presupposes a designer of any intelligence whatsoever?

So, to try and give these questions a good workout, I'm working on compiling a list of "design" flaws in the human body, which are explainable via evolution, but (if ID were true) would represent seriously bad engineering judgement on the part of the putative designer. I'm up to, umm, nine or ten so far...


  1. The anterior cruciate ligament is badly placed, and far too easily damaged. It's okay for quadrupeds, but we're bipeds.

  2. Our spinal columns are not properly designed for upright gait; the tendency of people to have lower back pain is one symptom of this. Again, our spines would be fine for quadrupeds.

  3. We are unable to synthesize ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), unlike most mammals. It makes sense that we may have lost the ability sometime in the past when we evolved the ability to procure a widly varied diet, but it qualifies as a design flaw.

  4. The placement of the carpal tunnels makes them far too easy to damage through repetitive strain.

  5. Appendix, anyone? The thing serves no useful purpose in humans; it only sits there and sometimes gets infected. It makes sense, evolutionarily, why we have it (our apelike ancestors needed it to digest cellulose), but a designer of any intelligence would have omitted it.

  6. The eye, that structure so beloved of the "irreducible complexity" crowd, is itself badly done. The optic nerve attaches at the back of the retina, right among the receptors, creating a blind spot. Why not have it coming off to the side?

  7. Blood types. Explainable as variation among populations, in evolution; in ID, just needless complexity.

  8. Lactose intolerance. Well, actually, lactose tolerance, which is the minority worldwide. It doesn't make any sense why a designer would only design some populations to be able to ingest dairy, while not others.


  9. and finally...

  10. David Spade. Just...why?!



Comments? Questions? Suggestions?
flewellyn: (Default)
Well, here goes the first of my rantnesses. I hope that you enjoy. If not...well, then, you'll just have to be destroyed.

Cut to spare the friends pages )

Thus endeth the rants, for now. But I'm open for any more suggestions! This is fun!

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