Tuesday, 26 March 2013
By Daniel Quinn
see relatedSo I've been meaning to blog more. I read an entire pro-creationism book, meaning to blog it chapter by chapter. I've been following the debates on guns, deficit spending, and gay marriage (pardon the usage) religiously. I have my comments, my thoughts, my insights. And every time I muster up the enthusiasm to actually make a full-fledged entry about a subject, the weight of the avalanche of idiocy tumbles upon me. The last post I did on guns truly emphasizes this. [See post here] So yeah, I'm well aware of the barrage of asshatitude that awaits me with every post. And for years (I've been doing this, on Xanga or Wordpress, under one name or another, since 2004) this hasn't bothered me. Yet suddenly... I'm weary.
I just don't have the energy to deal with (and these are all real things people have told me, if not quoted verbatim, then as close as memory permits):
"You hate guns? You're un-American"
"Obama's a Nazi!"
"Don't like God? Move to Russia!"
"If a man can marry a man, why can't a man marry a turtle?"
Fuck. Looking at the above subset and how can you not be overly-enraged or just overly overwhelmed? This is what I get for trying to actually share my views with the world. And when I felt like maybe, JUST MAYBE I'd venture into the waters again, I commented on a right-wing friend's FB post about how climate change is a myth. I commented, and got the general "climategate" response. So responded with a list of bipartisan, multicountry responses saying climategate itself is complete BS. Not only did she respond by giving me a link to a site from a year before my rebuttal, but her friends called me various forms of idiot. This alone was enough to remind me: I hate other people.
Between that and my sour history with some people here, I can't find the motivation to actually give a rat's ass about sharing my beliefs here, whether deeply-held or logically-found. No matter what, they will be shat upon by the narrow-minded, the hate-filled, the outright selfish or the straight-up assholes.
This isn't a goodbye, this is just... a proclamation. Politics irks me and Xanga friendships tend to hurt me, so what do I care about this for?
Saturday, 02 March 2013
In this recent chapter of the gun rights debate, I don't think either side is willing to budge. In fact, when discussing this with some of my right-wing friends on Facebook (always a productive thing to do), even when I was willing to try and meet in the middle I couldn't get one millimeter of movement on their behalf towards the center.
First I bring up that guns should be registered on a national level. This includes closing the gun show loophole, which allows private citizens to sell guns to people with no registration or oversight whatsoever. Around 40% of all gun sales in America fall under this category according to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and at least 10% of gun violence in this country is committed with guns purchased legally with this loophole according to the U.S. Department of Justice. To put that in perspective, that equates to about 26,000 firearms used in crime. It seems perfectly reasonable to require at least as much registration and documentation with your guns (which are used for no use other than to destroy people, animals or things) as you do with your car (which, if you're a sane human being, is only unintentionally used to destroy anything). Yet currently it's legal to buy a gun with no record of the purchase, while the same is not true of a car.
Wait, do I have to register this or not? Is it a car with guns, or guns with a car?
"Well even if we have these laws," counters the gun nut as he caresses his AK-47 with more love than I've shown any of my pets, "criminals will just break them. After all, that's what makes them criminals! So what's the point?" I should hope that anybody with a 5th grader's understanding of logic can see the gaping hole in this argument: that just because somebody will break the law doesn't mean we shouldn't have the law. To be extremely hyperbolic about it, why outlaw murder if people are going to murder anyways? To give a much more reasonable example, everybody speeds, so why enforce a speed limit? If you've ever seen that asshole switching lanes without signalling while driving 110mph through traffic, that answer should be obvious to you. And even if your argument is "no new laws, but enforce the existing laws," how many of those people are backing the idea that people with unregistered guns should get an actual prison sentence, not the slap on the wrist that the US (and most states) give us right now?
Fucking pigs don't respect my RIGHT to drive 85 through a school zone. FASCISTS!
So let's assume I've brought up a lot of other points that basically every other leftie has brought up in this debate already, almost all of which are completely obvious to other civilized western nations (just look at Australia, which saw a mass shooting as a reason to reform their gun laws).
So far in this meager blog, we've run the (admittedly weak) gauntlet of reasonable solutions to the indisputable issue of gun violence in this country. So now that we've covered almost all the field with reason, where does the gun nut retreat? To the corner, which they defend with "SECOND AMENDMENT, MOTHERFUCKER!"
Now don't get me wrong, for the time in which they were written, the Bill of Rights (aka the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which include the only parts of the Constitution that most people know) were incredibly insightful and prescient. That being said, our Founding Fathers™ were not infallible. They were men as limited by their age as we are by ours. That being said, men (as angelic as American history texts may portray them to be) are limited in their scope, and these men of the 18th century could not possibly foresee what the weapons of the 21st century would be like. When these men drafted the 2nd amendment, the most powerful arm a man could bear was a musket, or a canon if the man was particularly wealthy and/or had very strong arms.
My point is, the Constitution is a document limited by the time in which it was written, which obviously makes it, at best, partially-applicable today. The Supreme Court even upheld that the militia part of the 2nd amendment wasn't crucial in post-slavery America. which to me means, in law parlance, that the Constitution is a "living document" that changes to one extent or another with the time. So really, who gives a shit what Thomas Jefferson thought? He owned and fucked slaves. Is this really the man you want to base our country's morality on?
This show is much more difficult to watch given the historical context of the name.
The fact is, the Founding Fathers™ were not prophets. They couldn't possibly know what the country they were creating would be two and a half centuries later. The Bill of Rights is not the end all be all of law, which is why we've added over a dozen laws to it. So don't whip out your cock and jerk it while shouting "SECOND AMENDMENT, MOTHERFUCKERS!" to defend your right to own assault rifle that can fire 100 rounds in a minute. Our Founding Fathers™ weren't picturing a time when it was a CNN orgasm to have some dude walk into a school and shoot as many people as possible before he had to reload. Just because they gave you the right to bear arms doesn't mean they had the foresight to see the insanely overpowered rifles that would be used to mow down 7-year-olds.
So let's break this down. Let's exclude the (idiotic) notion that "THE CONSTITUTION [generic argument that is functionally retarded and basically says if you limit my right to buy death machines from whoever whenever for whatever and if you disagree you hate Americuh]". Let's look at the real world, not the dream the Founding Fathers™ were so excited about that they, at some point, let drip through their hand (that's a masturbation joke). Fuck the Founding Fathers™. Let's look at this practically, assuming that the Founding Fathers™ aren't influencing our lawmaking abilities, and let's try to make laws base upon (gasp!) common sense.Then again, common sense isn't something we have an overabundance of in this country.
Thursday, 07 February 2013
Shattering the Myths of Darwinism
By Richard Milton
I picked up Richard Milton's Shattering the Myths of Darwinism with such (I admit naively) high hopes. Several creationist acquaintances of mine had told me of the thorough and scientific nature of this text. I resolved to go into this with an open(ish) mind. However, I also went into this with a long history of reading books that popularize science, in the nature of Miller, Dawkins, Hawking, Greene, Bryson, Gould, so on and so forth. There are a few general trends of the books that do a service to their subject matter. Thus far, this book fails on all those counts.
In any non-fiction book that wishes to be taken seriously, proper citation is key. If you claim a fact, you back that up with a source. When you cite said source, you make damn sure that you do so in a way that anyone looking for it could find it with the proper access to Amazon, journals and/or a library. You make goddamned sure it can't be confused with anything else, and your reader doesn't have to spend an hour going through a stack of newspapers or an entire textbook. And you sure as fuck don't quote somebody, especially someone who is critical of you or you are critical of, without giving the exact, specific spot you can find that quote and the exact context. Milton is a sorry sack when it comes to providing his sources. For instance, one of his citations simply reads: "Nature 8.27, 1992." For those of you that don't know, issues of Nature typically ring in just shy of 200 pages and features 10-20 separate articles on a myriad of topics by dozens of authors. Citing the entire magazine is akin to someone asking what you're listening to and you point to your iPod. I assume you all have nanos which can only hold a few dozen songs. Half of that if they're by Led Zeppelin. Or just one live rendition of Stairway to Heaven.
Robert Plant was 26 when they started this song.
Simply put, this man wouldn't have passed a freshman science course with this shit. It makes it harder than Mel Gibson in a Holocaust museum to take this man seriously as an academic who is going to tear down all the work of thousands of real scientists. And yes, I'm sorry for putting that image in your brain.
On a personal, nitpicky note (because so far I've been so gracious, right?), I hate when authors use endnotes. As Al Franken pointed out in Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, authors often use endnotes to hide away the fact that they aren't using their sources correctly. Normally by the tenth citation or so, you're too lazy to flip to the back of the book to check it out. If you want to show people you're being absolutely open about your use of other people's work, footnotes show the maximum transparency. If you feel the need to use endnotes, put them at the end of each chapter.
On further reading, we see that Milton calls Nature "the most respected scientific magazine in the world," which apparently takes his complete disregard for neo-Darwinian thought to be... what, a teenage anti-parent angst phase? By calling a source an absolute authority on a subject, then making an entire book on the subject that one of the most core principles that the source you claim to respect is based upon seems hypocritical in the least, functionally retarded in the more on-the-nose vernacular.
Then we come to the crux of the argument, which has since been voiced by Ben Stein by those who care about the plight of creationists in academic discourse while eschewing reading in his "documentary" Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (a title I found fitting for a film in which almost no true intellectual thought was allowed to seep through to the actual movie): anti-Darwinian voices are muted by the "establishment," thereby propagating the cult of neo-Darwinism and shunning anybody who may even slightly disagree with this established status quo (p. x). I mean, sure, forget the fact that the peer-review process kicks tens of thousands of neo-Darwinian scientific papers from being published in journals as high as Nature to as low as, say, the Journal of Hymenopterology (to which I once submitted a paper discussing the evolutionary aspects of phenotypic plasticity in pavement ants, but was rejected, which I can only assume is due to anti-Semitic tendencies in the scientific establishment... or maybe my research didn't meet their standards, but that wouldn't paint me as the victim of the established scientific foothold).
As Milton points out (p. x), "it is not just outsiders who cannot be heard, it is dissenting members of the scientific professions themselves." See!? That's why my paper wasn't published. It wasn't lack of scientific rigor, or a complete dearth of any true findings that others in the field would find interesting and/or applicable. I was discriminated against! This also explains why my thesis on how the editor-in-chief is a doody-head that I wrote in crayon on the back of a woman's sanitary napkin also was not published. DISCRIMINATION! See, just like the scientists whose plight Milton discusses, my controversial views weren't published because they were "anti-Darwinian in implications and hence counter to the ruling ideology in the life sciences." I mean, fuck the fact that biology isn't a monarchistic institution. We don't have a king or queen.
We do, however, have a Joker.
Science doesn't work that way. The whole reason we have the peer-review process is to fight against the personal biases that we, as people, hold on to. The scientific method does everything it can to fight prejudices like that. That's the whole reason we have the peer-review process. And the reason these anti-evolution "theses" were rejected from reputable journals is the same reason that flat-earth posts are rejected, or why you don't see "the Holocaust was a lie" chapters in our history books. Sometimes "I BELIEVE THIS SO HARD HOW CAN YOU DENY IT!?" just isn't enough to make it science. Now suck it up and bring your A-game (I truly hope you haven't been bringing it thus far) for the rest of the book.
Thursday, 31 January 2013
Shattering the Myths of Darwinism
By Richard Milton
Well, I've neglected this blog for long enough. But I'm undertaking a project to ensure I make a steady run of blogs for the foreseeable future. I'm rolling up my sleeves, hitching up my pants, and taking a far-more-than-reasonable amount of prescription anti-depressants to suppress my rage as I dissect a creationist "non-fiction" novel. I've been meaning to undertake this endeavor for awhile now, but have been delayed by things like my family, illness, and downloading all five seasons of The Wire. If this goes well, I may tackle other creationist books, pro-Christian "logic" books like Case for Christ, and even Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter's word vomit between two covers.
For my first project I picked Richard Milton's Shattering the Myths of Darwinism. I picked this book for several reasons. The first is that it's broken into short sub-chapters of about 10-20 pages, allowing my first attempt at this type of blogathon to be put into concise snippets, of which I can write two or three a day. The second is that it has been recommended to me by multiple creationists as a science-minded, reasonable critique of neo-Darwinism, and not merely a religious creed masked as science. The third, and most important, is that I'm in Arizona taking care of my mother post-surgery, and the library here doesn't have an extensive selection of creationist books (which is surprising, considering this is the state that is trying to make high school children state a pledge affirming their belief in god before graduating high school), and this is one of the few I could find. Then again, I was looking in the science section, not science fiction, so maybe I just missed them. Or maybe they're kept in the back room along with copies of Mein Kampf and VHS copies of Sarah Palin porn.
So this evening, assuming I'm not cripplingly concussed from slamming my head against the wall, I'll post my critique of the preface of this book (my critique may well be longer than the preface I'm mercilessly judging). If there's something you'd like to see more or less of in my writing, let me know. I aim to please, if only in my writing and not in the bedroom. And hopefully this will be the first of a 26-part series which will eventually leave Richard Milton sobbing from the brutal spanking I've given him.
Sunday, 13 January 2013
The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design
By Leonard Susskind
see relatedFirst, sorry for the lack of posts lately. Life has been fucking insane lately. My social life has been all kinds of ups and downs. I moved to Arizona (from Minnesota, for those of you unaware) for an undisclosed amount of time while I take care of my mother as she recuperates from back surgery. But mostly I had no urge whatsoever to write on this goddamned site, or on my other, more permanent site (LINKY). The latter site will get more updates soon. But lately I've been dealing with personal drama and working on both my standup routine (which is about to get tested in Tucson, the first showing I've given it outside of the upper Midwest) and my book (tentatively titled "The Comedian's Guide to Evolution", which actually has a publisher interested).
But anyways, back to the topic of this post:
In a recent discussion, @rachelbachel32 and I got in an argument over who is more awesome. This, of course, led to a discussion of what actually makes one awesome. After some back and forth, both of us proffering issues that we would win as evidence, we decided to ask the impartial mob of Xanga the criteria as to what makes one awesome. So please, present your criteria, present your cases, present your arguments, and eventually Rachel and I will present the conclusion as to who is more awesome. And if we cannot come to a conclusion betwixt the two of us, we will offer video evidence and let Xanga decide.
False: Only Rachel or myself can be awesome. There can be only one! Like Highlander, but with less mullets.
Please, comment, rec, do whatever you can to make this contest as fair and as awesome as an awesomeness contest can possibly be.
Peace, Love, KriskoDisko
P.S. Shameless self-promotion: find me on Twitter (like 5 times a day, normally): @KriskoDisko
P.P.S. How weak is it that Xanga has a "Currently reading, listening, watching, and gaming" but no "currently drinking"?