Where the facts really stand

My two posts on Brendan Eich have attracted a commenter who wants us all to know he thinks homosexuality is a form of mental illness, and that therefore it is “tough love” to discriminate against them and deny their right to get married. He and I have been having a long back-and-forth discussion, in the most recent of which he said supporters of gay rights are guilty of “mental gymnastics” and “misrepresenting facts.” I have summarized my understanding of the relevant facts in my reply to him, but after thinking it over I’ve decided to promote it to a blog post as well. I’ll be interested in hearing your comments.

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Changing The Creepy Guy Narrative

Today’s must-read narrative, about one too many creepy guys on a subway.

So a thing happened to me yesterday on the BART as I was coming home from work. (And no, it wasn’t a Sharknado…mores the pity.) Maybe I’m just rewriting history or trying to make a story fit in this the context of this blog…maybe, but I really, honestly think that what happened did so (at least in my case) because I am a writer.

via Writing About Writing (And Occasionally Some Writing): Changing The Creepy Guy Narrative.

A persecuted church

I thought this story might be an amusing look at yet another Christian group hypocritically claiming martyrdom and persecution. It isn’t.

A decade ago, God spoke to Jane Whaley, and she says he told her to fight…

“God told me, ‘Jane, you are at the beginning of a holocaust,’ ” Whaley says. “Before … we turned the other cheek. We let them run all over us. And God said, ‘Jane, they’re going to close your doors if you don’t rise up and fight.’ ”

Sure, just another believer making extravagant claims that their “persecution” was going to be just like Hitler wiping out millions of Jews, right? I hope that’s all it is. Then again, even David Koresh had to start somewhere.

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Counterfeminism

One of the things that really puzzles me is the number of women who are opposed to feminism. And not just reluctant, either. I’m talking hackles-raised, eyes-blazing hostility against the very people who are fighting to win them equal rights. It boggles my mind.

But, as the saying goes, a boggled mind is of no use to anyone, so I want to understand this counter-intuitive phenomenon. One of the possibilities that occurs to me is that there are actually two different forms of feminism, each pursuing radically different goals. Call them feminism and counterfeminism. The feminist is working to establish women as autonomous and respected individuals who are equal in status, opportunity, and financial compensation, as compared to their male counterparts. The feminist assumption is that the ideal condition for women is equality. But that’s not necessarily an assumption shared by all, not even by all women.

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Miracles and the power of suggestion

According to a story in the New York Times, the placebo effect isn’t just limited to a drug’s expected benefits. People can and do suffer negative side effects as a result of believing they are taking real drugs. It’s called the “nocebo” effect.

In a curious study, a team of Italian gastroenterologists asked people with and without diagnosed lactose intolerance to take lactose for an experiment on its effects on bowel symptoms. But in reality the participants received glucose, which does not harm the gut. Nonetheless, 44 percent of people with known lactose intolerance and 26 percent of those without lactose intolerance complained of gastrointestinal symptoms.

In one remarkable case, a participant in an antidepressant drug trial was given placebo tablets — and then swallowed 26 of them in a suicide attempt. Even though the tablets were harmless, the participant’s blood pressure dropped perilously low.

Is it any wonder that people have reported similarly astonishing effects produced from things like God, or demons? Influencing the imagination can and does produce measurable physical effects on the body, even in the absence of the things that are supposed to be causing them.

Something to think about the next time you’re flipping through the channels and find some shiny clean evangelist “healing” people.