Archive for the ‘Other People's Stuff’ Category

Houses and Humans

February 8, 2012

Heh. Heh, heh.

Seen flying around teh Facebook.
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Fallacies, Fallacies, Everywhere!

February 2, 2012

Sometimes I get stuck in a conversation with someone who is making piss-poor arguments, and I just want to shoot ’em all down. Sometimes I don’t get a chance to do this because I can’t get a word in edge-wise, or because I’m not quick enough on my feet that day to identify the particular BS being spouted. I have a lot of respect for people who can dissect an argument into its components and separate the bogus from the the valid points. This is a skill – a learnable skill – that can take discussions to the next level and allow topics to be examined rationally.

Evan Bernstein from the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe recently responded to a fabulously fallacious and nonsensical email from a listener on the SGU blog, The Rogue’s Gallery. First Evan presents the email in its entirety, then proceeds to break it down one sentence at a time. This is an epic response, and I wanted to share with all of you.

“I don’t like your attitude on the show. You said the Chem-trails are not real. I have seen them myself and have taken many pictures. I have also seen footage of a weatherman in Oregon saying that the military was doing experiments and laying the chem-trails. Why would you be so sure that they are not real. Who are you?? A bunch of snotty punks that never leave your office? I bet the whole show is there to make real people who seek real truth; look stupid. The “experts” like you claim to be, lie all the fucking time; and so do the people on your show. Thats why you dont have the guts to put up a phone number for calls. I bet you are funded by the goverment, or drug companies or something. No normal people are so arrogant. You are not the “experts” of anything, except lies.”

Wow, that’s quite an email.  Allow me to reply one sentence at a time.

 “I don’t like your attitude on the show.” 

Unsubscribe.

“You said the Chem-trails are not real.”

Yes.

“I have seen them myself and have taken many pictures.” 

 You saw contrails, not “chem-trails”.

“I have also seen footage of a weatherman in Oregon saying that the military was doing experiments and laying the chem-trails.” 

Argument From Authority (a very poor one, to boot) 

“Why would you be so sure that they are not real.” 

Evidence, lack thereof.

Who are you??

I see where the question mark from the prior “question” went.  

 A bunch of snotty punks that never leave your office?”

Ad Hominem.

“I bet the whole show is there to make real people who seek real truth; look stupid.”

Only those who regularly botch their punctuation.

The “experts” like you claim to be, lie all the fucking time; and so do the people on your show.

Asshole Fallacy.

“Thats why you dont have the guts to put up a phone number for calls.”

(212) 384-1000

“I bet you are funded by the goverment, or drug companies or something.”

Something.

“No normal people are so arrogant.”

(Fill in your own thought, I really have no idea what this means.)

“You are not the “experts” of anything, except lies.”

Lies indeed, especially exposing the people who spout and regurgitate them.

See? EPIC. Not that this response would make any difference to the listener, but sometimes it’s enough to examine the message, deconstruct it, realize that there’s nothing you could say to make a difference, and move on with your life.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe was my gateway drug into skepticism back in late 2009. My sister recommended the SGU podcast for its laid-back presentation of science and critical thought. And it is laid-back. This isn’t a hard-core science podcast; there is a sharp focus on skepticism and rationality (of which science and evidence play a huge part).

Listening to SGU renewed my interest in recognizing logical fallacies, and has even pushed me outside of my normal biology and medicine comfort zones to explore cosmology, physics and robotics. Each show has several regular weekly sections and the rest is a bunch of unscripted bantering between the five hosts. I describe it to newbies as a nerdier version of NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! If this sounds like your gig, check it out The Skeptics Guide to the Universe on iTunes.

Kids Know What’s Up

January 26, 2012

Twice yesterday I was blown away by the insight of young ladies who have an incredible grasp of the world around them.

13-year old schools you on slut shaming.

This is fantastic. I am awed that this incredible teenage girl not only grasps the problem of slut shaming, but that she so thoroughly and eloquently explains it in under four minutes.

Seen on Feministe

Boy-Girl Bear

My friend’s four-year old daughter has this to tell you about her bear:

Text reads: E’s bear’s name is Isabelle and he is “both a boy and a girl and he’s ok with you calling him he or she.” We are changing the world people! It’s so simple for kids to get why is it so hard for adults?!

Jesus vs. Doctor Who

January 24, 2012

Heh. A kickass atheist, nerdy, Doctor-loving coworker forwarded this to me. It’s copyright 2007, so I’m assuming it’s made the rounds in the past, but I’ve never seen it and it made me lulz lots, so I thought I’d pass it on.

Seen at Unholy Office. Original material in two posts from Home on the Strange.

 

Creepy Purity Bear is Creepy

January 20, 2012

Wait – first read the YouTube description of this video:

This is a student made video saying that the best way to stay sexually pure is to wait until marriage. Having one partner is the God-approved way to enjoy sex.

God must have forgotten to tell that to Newt. Bah dah dum! Okay, heeeeeere’s Purity Bear:

Did anyone else pick up on the fact that Eve tempted Adam, and not the other way around? And that good, chaste Adam turned away the seductress Eve (gently, kindly, but with manly firmness and moral conviction that she’s lacking. Heh…”manly firmness”).

The video’s description contains a promotion for the Liberty Counsel’s Day of Purity. DOP’s website “offers those who strive for sexual purity an opportunity to stand together in opposition to a culture of moral decline.” The website urges young people to “be a part of the ‘counter-coulture’ – – be politically incorrect.” Do it! Or, wait…don’t do it! Or purity bear will come and judge you while sadly watching you have immoral, out-of-wedlock sex.

This (the video, purity bear and the DOP)  is hilarious, infuriating and sad. Yes, waiting to have sex (however you define that) until you are in a committed marriage (whatever that means to you and your partner) is a great way to to stay “sexually pure” (whatever that means). It’s also not very realistic. This video is an example of how religious indoctrination makes teens feel guilty about their normal, biological, sexual urges. And it’s an example of how religion seems to have trouble speaking frankly about sex to children and teens. I mean, who takes sex advice from a teddy bear? What do they know about sex? Well, unless they’re zoo-bound grizzly bears; they have promiscuous sex all year round to fend off the boredom. Hey! Nice role model you chose there, Liberty Counsel!

But, whatever. All I know is I want Purity Bear. He does look cuddly. Plus, I could put him on my bedside table so he can watch when I have sex. Poor bear could probably use some good ol’ voyeurism after this stint.

Seen over at Joe.My.God

Sean Faircloth: Attack of the Theocrats

January 17, 2012

Atheists Talk radio show is interviewing politician and church-state separation activist Sean Faircloth this upcoming Sunday, January  22nd. Starting in 2009 Sean Faircloth was the Executive Director of the Secular Coalition of America, and in 2011 he became the Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

I’m hosting Atheists Talk this weekend, so in preparation and interest I have started reading his newest book, Attack of the Theocrats, and watching videos of his speeches. I think I’m going to connect with his message that secular activists need to focus first on the real human harm that results from religious privilege, and not get lost in symbolic battles that  stoke theistic ire and strengthen resistance to secular activism.

From Attack of the Theocrats:

…the secular movement suffers from a noble flaw. Secular people tend to have an almost religious faith in statistics and dry arguments and abstractions as the proper method by which to carry the day. This has made it difficult to connect with the broader American public, particularly when many of our battles emphasize symbols – and not the numerous religious laws that harm real people.

Secular Americans remain a sleeping giant, a huge demographic that has thus far failed to flex its own muscle, much less galvanize the general population. We ignore people suffering under religious privilege while shaking our fist at a slapped-together manger with a plastic baby Jesus in the town square at Christmas time. While symbols are meaningful and these particular symbols on public grounds do violate Madison’s Constitution, Secular Americans must do better to reach all Americans. We must explain the human story – the human harm and the outright abuse of our tax dollars that result from religious privileging in law.

In the video below Mr. Faircloth outlines for the audience a few of the cases from Attack of the Theocrats, and lists his proposals for how secular activists can direct our efforts to focus on religious privilege that is enshrined in laws, and which are causing real human harm and waste of tax dollars.

Video first seen at RDF.

Symphony of Science

January 14, 2012

I hadn’t visited Symphony of Science in a little while. The last video I watched was #8 The Big Beginning, and when I wasn’t looking John Boswell came out with four more productions:

  • Ode to the Brain (with Carl Sagan, Robert Winston, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Jill Bolte Taylor, Bill Nye, and Oliver Sacks)
  • Children of Africa (Carolyn Porco, Neil deGrasse Tyson, various presenters)
  • The Quantum World (Richard Feynman, Morgan Freeman, Stephen Hawking, Brian Cox, various presenters)
  • Onward to the Edge (Neil deGrasse Tyson,Carolyn Porco, various presenters

I like these videos because they highlight the wonder of the presenters’ words. They focus on the dreams that can be achieved with science, technology and innovation.

You can see the rest of the videos at the Symphony of Science website or the YouTube channel.

Gravity Stool – Art and Science

January 12, 2012

I found this link on Twitter from ThinkGeek. Jólan van der Wiel designed a machine containing magnets, that “grows” plastic embedded with magnetic material into these unique shapes.

Gravity Stool from Miranda Stet on Vimeo.

Image source

Gay is the new black…or isn’t it?

January 11, 2012

One of my friends posted a YouTube video on his Facebook wall, and I thought it was interesting enough to listen to the entire 11:34 piece (woah, attention span…where did you come from? You usually take off once I sit down at the interwebs).

The author of the video is speaking in response to the rallying cry “Gay is the new black”, and specifically to this article published in the Huffington Post at the end of December.

Image source: Fox News

Monique Ruffin’s Huffpo article is an interesting piece on how the “Black Church” is supporting oppression of gays. She calls out black Christians who would deny civil rights to gay people. She is also wondering how some black people in general would bemoan the phrase “Gay is the new black”, and asks them to see the similarities between the black struggle and the gay struggle, not just the differences between the two.

For me, the sufferings of a person or a group of people at the hands of other humans are frightening and heartbreaking. Instinctually, I feel that if any group can be oppressed, then I can be oppressed. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made this very point when he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This is why I’m always flabbergasted when I see some black Christians fighting against the civil rights of gays. We know firsthand the impact and dehumanization of discrimination.

Melvin too calls for blacks and gays to see the similarities of their struggles, but he lists 5 reasons why gay is not the new black.

1.You can’t compare oppressions. If I understand Melvin’s point, he’s calling out those who oversimplify the fight for civil rights undertaken by blacks and by gays and lumping them together in the phrase “Gay is the new black.” Like Ruffin, he asks us to avoid trying to say that one is more of a struggle than the other, but urges us to recognize that each had and has its unique challenges and battles; they are not the same. I liked this section:

Who the hell cares? Who the hell cares? Inequality and oppression are evil, regardless of the form they take. By comparing your oppression to someone else’s, you’re trivializing that person’s struggle and creating a hierarchy, which prevents you from seeing how the two struggles are related and building alliances.

2. Black is still black. “We can’t just hone in on homophobia and ignore other systems of inequality.” Here he describes how the struggle for black equality is not over, and those who lobby for gay rights under the banner of “black rights were then, gay rights are now” are blind to the the ongoing battles still being waged for black rights.

3.  _____ is the new black. I found this argument to be very similar to number two. Again, Melvin is pointing out that discrimination comes from all corners, and chastises people who are so proud to support gay or black rights and forget the Latina, the person with a disability, the woman, the muslim. The take away from this is we can’t just focus on homophobia and forget the other injustices being fought.

When I hear someone say that gay is the new black, and that gay rights are the new civil rights issue of our time, it makes me think they’re pretty ignorant. It makes me think, you know, that person just doesn’t really give a damn about people of color, women, people with disabilities, transgender people, or any other group facing discrimination these days.

4. Gay is not the new anything. Here Melvin gives props to the gay community. Gay is not new, gay oppression is not new, the gay struggle is not new. Gay people have been fighting their fight for over a century. He’s saying gays don’t need to tie onto the black struggle to get their message across because the gay community has been holding its own.

5. So, transgender is the new gay – not. This is a different presentation of 2 and 3: There are other marginalized groups out there, not just the gay community. He is specifically speaking about the transgender community here. Melvin makes an argument that the GLB community has for the most part largely ignored issues facing transgendered people.

In closing, Melvin tells us that we can’t compare gay oppression and the black oppression, but we can learn from the movements of both groups and the ways they have each organized.

So, is gay the new black?

In Ruffin’s Huffpo article she is using the phrase “Gay is the new black” to hit black Christians who discriminate against gays over the head. She is not breaking down the phrase to ask if it is a perfect metaphor, she is using it to remind black Christians that gays are being discriminated against, as they were once were (not in the same way, but nevertheless, they both have been are being oppressed). Melvin is more concerned with the actual metaphor and is asking us to stop using it.

Every activist group needs a battle cry, but is this the right one for the GLBT community? Does it simplify and trivialize other types of discrimination?

It is a frustrating situation; when it comes to civil rights, why is there any other distinction that “human”?

Photoshopping Our Perception of Beauty

January 1, 2012

We’ve heard that celebrity/modeling photography and Photoshop go hand-in-hand, but how many of us can visualize what that actually means? Much kudos and thanks to Jason Thibeault at Lousy Canuck for his article, Teaching girls that pretty isn’t pretty enough, in which he gave some examples of the unrealistic body images and ideas of beauty that are planted in our brains by the media, and how these software-designed bodies and faces have little to do with what any of us really look like.

The website that he cites, Forever Healthy and Young, shows 60 models and celebrities before and after Photoshop. Here’s a few of the before and afters…but you gotta go read Jason’s article for the full list.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were more gorgeous models with freckles so that people with freckles might see them as just another physical characteristic instead of as a blemish? We could start by letting this gorgeous woman’s speckled splendor shine.

Guess what? George Clooney don’t need no Photoshop help. He’s a kick-ass actor and drop-dread sexy with the wrinkles and salt-and-pepper hair.

I found myself looking at the befores, then at the afters, then at the befores…and just felt sad. All of these beautiful people are beautiful in their own right, unadulterated. But somebody somewhere decided that a few of the hard-earned wrinkles, the little brown birthmark, the curvy hip had to be erased, blended or flattened to make a unique human being look more like the same flawless, general, standard, boring, china doll.

Make sure to check out the three links at the bottom of the Forever Healthy and Young site that Jason references in his post. They have links to stories about recent laws, proposed restrictions, and bans against Photoshopped images. Food for thought…the idea of legislating alteration of photos may be a discussion for a future post.